Catering Consultant – How to Develop a Workplace Catering Strategy

Workplace Catering Strategy – Introduction

As a specialist catering consultant practice organisations regularly appoint us to develop their catering strategy or food service strategy. Within this catering consultant article, part of the Catering Consultant article series, we explore what a workplace catering strategy or food service strategy is. While some commonalities do exist when considering and developing catering strategies or food and beverage strategies for other types of organisations, the focus of this article is for workplace catering or employee dining, including offices and other business and industry related catering. Developing a catering strategy for other organisation types will be addressed later in the Catering Consultant series.


What is a workplace catering strategy?

So what is a workplace catering strategy (sometimes also referred to as an employee dining & hospitality catering strategy, food and beverage strategy and tenant and occupier catering strategy)?

As independent catering consultants, we consider a workplace catering strategy as:

“A clearly defined plan of action to achieve an overall aim in relation to employee dining, hospitality and any other related workplace catering services”.

The workplace catering strategy could be in relation to existing catering or, as is more often the case, in relation to new catering facilities that are to be developed. The focus and approach is also likely to differ to some extent if it is for multi tenanted buildings, co-working spaces and business parks, although a similar process would be applied.

Why develop a workplace catering strategy or employee dining catering strategy?

There are many reasons for developing on-site workplace catering facilities. Appropriately configured and relevant workplace cafes, restaurant and related social spaces have the potential to enhance the workplace experience, improve wellbeing, motivation and productivity.

A cohesive workplace catering strategy will assist in determining a series of considerations to fully understand the rationale for workplace catering as well as developing the plan to achieve the long-term objectives and related policies of the organisation. It will help scope out and define clarity to questions that you may be contemplating in relation to your workplace food service operation.

What needs to be considered in developing a workplace catering strategy?

Some initial considerations that you may be contemplating could include:

  • What are the objectives for workplace employee dining and hospitality?
  • What should the tariff policy be? Or to put it another way, at what level should we set the tariffs on menu items. This is a balance to ensure that the employee dining or staff restaurant menu pricing is appropriate to convert the optimum number of employees or tenants to use the facilities throughout the day while at the same time achieving the desired gross profit.
  • What are the behaviours and needs of the customers for our proposed staff restaurant or café? How many employees or occupants are available on a daily basis and how many of them are likely to use the workplace catering facilities?
  • Where should the staff restaurant or employee dining be located? Will it be appropriately located for services as well as deliveries?
  • How does the location of the workplace foodservice operation work with the lift strategy? If employee dining is to be located in an office block or tower is it in the optimum location to benefit from the lift strategy and transfer floors? Is it easily accessible to employees and occupants from all levels? If it’s in a business park is it central to those tenants and occupiers most likely to utilise the catering facilities for breakfast, lunch or informal all day snacking and meetings? Is there a requirement for an evening catering service or for the employee restaurant to be used for other purposes such as events or occasional after work social events?
  • If it’s a shared building would it make sense to allow other building occupants to use the staff catering facilities or are there security, confidentiality or other considerations?
  • What are our peer organisations doing with their employee dining facilities and should we be doing that?
  • What type of workplace catering should we be considering? Should it be a restaurant, café, shop or something else. Do we need more than one catering facility?
  • Will the staff catering facilities be providing an all day service or just lunch? What will be the benefit and financial position of different service and opening times?
  • How many seats do we need in our staff restaurant or staff canteen? What types of seating should we be considering?
  • What do our employees want from their catering service and how should we engage them?
  • How should wellbeing be considered in the menu for employee dining and across the overall catering services?
  • What wider foodservice trends do we need to consider for our new or existing staff restaurant?
  • How should the workplace catering spaces be developed to meet our service needs and complement our organisational culture?
  • How do we ensure that the staff restaurant or café is developed and operated to meet our sustainability and corporate social responsibility policies?
  • What is the level of catering competition to our planned staff restaurant and what will the impact be?
  • Do we need vending or beverage points on the office floors?
  • What about Hospitality? A hospitality provision, be it coffees and teas for meetings, working lunches or more extensive menus with hot food and buffets may be required. Where will these be serviced from and how should this be costed and recharged?
  • For some organisations Private Dining Rooms or PDR’s are an important necessity for client entertainment. Has consideration been given to this?
  • How do people pay for meals and drinks in the staff restaurant or café? Will it be cash, cashless, contactless, mobile or a combination?
  • Who should be operating and managing the workplace catering service? Quite often this will be an external third party caterer or contract caterer, although it doesn’t have to be.
  • How can we confidently set budgets for our staff restaurant and workplace catering? What are the financial benchmarks for sales and costs for a workplace catering operations based in the city/ remotely/ in a business park etc?
  • What will the capital costs be for the workplace catering?
  • If we appoint a contract caterer to operate our staff canteen, how do we go through a tender exercise and what will the contractual and financial structure be? Who will take the risk with the staff restaurant, the caterer or us?
  • How does the caterer understand our needs and do we need a catering service level agreement or food service specification?
  • Should we be operating our staff café or staff restaurant ourselves?
  • What alternative workplace foodservice models and delivery models are available?

These are just some of the considerations when developing a catering strategy for new workplace catering facilities or looking at refurbishing or relocating existing employee dining, staff cafes etc. So how do we answer these questions and develop a cohesive and relevant workplace catering strategy?

What should be included in a workplace catering strategy?

We have set out below a few headers for what we, Montfort Catering Consultants, typically consider and include in a workplace catering strategy or food and beverage strategy:

  • Objectives & policies for workplace catering & hospitality.
  • Environmental considerations and site dynamics.
  • Foodservice research and trends.
  • Employee dining and hospitality demand, forecasts and budgets.
  • Workplace catering conceptual style options, locations and recommendation.
  • Hospitality requirements and any other workplace catering options and requirements.
  • Food service management options and recommendations.

Workplace market led catering strategy

Montfort Catering Consultants’ view is that the starting point for all workplace catering strategies is that they must be market led or customer centric. After all, if the staff catering doesn’t meet and exceed a defined group of customers’ expectations then it will not succeed. In fact, we have three key elements that we apply to all catering consultancy assignments:

  • Customer Centric – Our empathetic customer centric approach supports creating a sense of place for the food and drink operations that we are asked to improve and develop.
  • Commercially Sustainable – As specialist catering consultants we are able to provide greater assurance to the long-term success of your workplace catering operation through the provision of expert knowledge and advice. We apply our knowledge and expertise from our wider work in the commercial sector to ensure that workplace catering matches expectations from other life experiences as well as being commercially sustainable.
  • Culturally Sympathetic – Our catering consultants ensure that workplace catering is culturally sympathetic and relevant to the wider aspirations and activities of the organisation as well as being appropriate to the building design and style.

Workplace catering strategy consultant advice

We hope this article gives you some insight in to how to develop a workplace catering strategy. The details provided are an overview, and the development of a cohesive workplace catering strategy is very much a collaborative process.

If you are looking at developing new workplace catering facilities or need help with improving existing employee dining and would like to talk about developing a workplace catering strategy, do get in touch with us at Montfort Catering Consultants so we can discuss how we could support you.

Posted on May 13th, 2019