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  • Writer's pictureRaquel Weiss Fusco

2020’s Top 5

Revamping Your Workplace Dining Experience

It’s almost time to lay eyes on the sparkling Waterford Crystal Ball that adorns Times Square every New Year’s Eve. People from around the world will count down the final seconds of 2019 and celebrate the beginning of a new year full of hopes, challenges, changes and dreams. Some may categorize these as resolutions.

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Personally, I’m not a huge fan of resolutions. Something like 80 percent of them fail by February, according to an article I recently read. And let’s face it, no one likes to fail at anything. So, I take time as the year wraps up to write down five things that went well and five things that I want to change. They can affect my work, my role as a mom, my health and a plethora of other components that make up Raquel.

My not-quite-a-resolution method got me thinking about how this could apply to “Quel’s Corner” and Total Foodservice’s readers. I came up with the Top 5 things to do in 2020 that’ll revamp your workplace dining experience. I bet this list includes at least one solution that’ll help achieve some of what you want to change in your company café. So, without further ado … here it is.

1. Refresh Your Space

Let’s be realistic. There are not always enough investment dollars available to complete a gut renovation of your café because trends have evolved. One way to address this is a café refresh. A fresh coat of paint; new food guards, tray slides and counter fascia; and improving the station signage can be enough to make a difference. Want to think bigger? Replacing some equipment will enhance the taste of the food and speed of service.

2. Employee Retention It’s no secret that individuals on the job hunt are seeking positions with a variety of amenities and perks. The trend is to create offices where people are productive and are excited to be there. While many of these perks (like gyms, day care facilities and PTO) are out of our control, as foodservice professionals we have the opportunity to create a workspace with elements of hospitality.

"... As foodservice professionals we have the opportunity to create a workspace with elements of hospitality."

For example, let’s say your building doesn’t have the space to offer a complete dining experience. But, if you took down a conference room wall or two, you might have the ability to incorporate a Micromarket with a single concept station and sprinkle it with some seating. Another idea, I’ve seen the elite|studio e team create in a few places is replacing vending areas with a small foodservice concept like a juice bar.

By bringing ideas like this into your building, you’re helping create new destinations throughout the floors, providing a space for casual collisions and adding an employee amenity. It’s all in a day’s work, right?

3. Redesign for Multiple Uses

I kind of hinted at this one in number 2, but the workplace café and multipurpose spaces are popping up everywhere (Hello Hudson Yards!). The benefits of redesigning for multiple uses include giving offices with less square footage the space they need to function; converting spaces into work areas with easy to move furniture; and allowing rooms to be reconfigured quickly and painlessly.

A few years ago, I remember working on a project where the foodservice operator had to lose much of its dining space to conference areas. Of course, this was less than desirable for the operator because people may not have any place to eat except for their desks and, being realistic, that isn’t something people want to do every day. So logically, people will leave for lunch many days and the operator will lose business. Enter the team at elite|studio e who was able to appease both parties by transforming a traditional dining room into collaborative meeting and dining space with two conference rooms on the perimeter.

4. Energy Audits

Sustainability. Going green. Recyclable. It’s all part of a hot topic – making ecologically responsible decisions. While you may not be able to completely overhaul your space with new equipment, locally sourced finishes, raw materials and the like, you can certainly make some changes to improve your green footprint.

One way to move forward with this process is to have an Energy Audit of your space completed. In a nutshell, a LEED accredited individual can survey the kitchen and its equipment to make recommendations that’ll help reach make your corporate café a more environmentally friendly space.

Another idea, on a much simpler scale, is to purchase ecofriendly smallwares. And I’m not just referring to paper straws! There are biodegradable plates, bowls, utensils, cups and more.

5. Reinvigorate Your Menu

There are many ways to shake up the offering while bringing your menu up to trend.

First, there’s the nutritional aspect. People are eating healthier and we’ve got to get on board. Whole 30, Paleo, Clean Eating and Keto are some of the buzz words out there. If you want to make a change to your space, you need to get on this bandwagon and offer all the colors in the rainbow (from a fruit and veggies standpoint), lots of protein options including fish and chicken; and whole grains.

Second, locally source your menu or even a percentage of it. Locavores focus on eating foods that are made with locally grown ingredients or that have been sourced from local farms. There are many restaurants highlighting this dining fashion and foodservice operators are certainly beginning to embrace it.

Lastly, modify some of your dishes so they’re more authentic. While I realize using a tandoori oven to create Asian, Indian and Pakistani dishes is not in everyone’s budget, there are other ways to achieve this without replacing expensive equipment. For example, maybe you have a rotating station in your space. You can bring on a chef that was trained in France to cook Boeuf Bourguignonne and other cuisines from the area. Another idea is to use bold flavors representative of the region. So that same flex station is providing a Mexican offering and on your ingredient list is achiote paste, cilantro and cotija cheese. Lastly, you can serve the food in authentic style – even when it’s been carried out. Gone are the days of the Styrofoam clam shell. Serve stir fry in a take-out box with a red pagoda on it and throw in a fortune cookie for good measure.

As 2019 comes to a close, I hope I’ve inspired you to pick one small thing to change in your corporate dining experience. And if I didn’t, I can at least be sure that you’re craving Chinese food. I think we can all agree, there’s just something about sesame chicken when it comes in a white paper container.

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