4 Ways On-site Cafeterias Can Attract & Retain Workforce Talent

Talent recruitment and retention are two topics regularly at the forefront of company planning and decision-making. Anyone in a hiring position has felt the pain of finding qualified talent over the last few years. On the other side of the coin, we’ve seen retention steadily dropping across industries. Complicating matters further, it seems like hybrid schedules are here to stay. Many argue this leaves employees feeling less connected to their workplace and more willing to leave for “greener pastures.”

For many companies, it feels like there’s no way to win, so they employ strategic efforts to improve and maintain their talent pool. There’s substantial focus on “hard benefits” like higher pay, sign-on bonuses, health benefits, and other monetary compensation. In the last few years we’ve also seen a boost in prioritizing “soft benefits” like flexible work hours, PTO, hybrid work, “summer hours,” and more. But a soft benefit many don’t consider is their on-site dining offerings.

That isn’t to say offering burgers or falafel for lunch is a top deciding factor when a prospective employee is looking to join your team, or for a current team member considering moving on to another opportunity. But when managed correctly, the food and ambiance you offer in your dining space could very well tip the scale in your favor for both recruitment and retention.

Provide Lunch Options That Take Less Time

The key to workplace productivity isn’t early starts and late nights; it’s actually lunch with fresh food that’s quick to grab. On-site dining can support that, especially if employees find themselves seeking lunch from fast food, fast casual, or even sit-down restaurants during the week.

Dining isn’t a one-size-fits-all experience, but different offerings can help you better-meet employee needs. Some people prefer quick grab-n-go options they can take back to their desk, while others want more of a sit-down experience. Your dining services could even offer on-site catering for annual meetings or lunch meetings.

Offering a variety of options to suit different types of diners shows flexibility and understanding that not every employee wants the same dining experience.

Employees navigate back-to-back meetings and put out organizational fires to meet and exceed departmental goals. By offering excellent dining on-site, employees lose less time seeking alternate lunch options. Not only can that boost productivity, it also means they can leave work on time, spend more time with their family, and lead fulfilling lives. It’s time to resurrect the work lunch.

Quick Food Options That Are Also Healthy

We put a lot of focus on where we source our ingredients, especially if there are opportunities to source locally. You can check out this farm feature for more details on what that process looks like, but in short: where your food comes from matters.

While they’re beneficial, “healthy food” goes far beyond a garden salad and skipping sugary drinks. Our chefs are intentional about offering a greater variety of healthy options without completely eliminating diners’ favorite comfort foods. This could look like offering craveable plant-based meals, like chipotle veggie burgers, or offering Mediterranean salmon for diners to try.

Even just knowing the option is there can urge employees to make a positive change. Most offices don’t have great availability of healthy fast or fast-casual food options. By providing diners with delicious, wholesome food options, you can encourage healthy habits without them feeling like you’re forcing it upon them.

Variety Keeps Them Coming Back

While some people prefer to stick to the food they’re comfortable with, variety in our diets is important. Eating different foods provides our bodies with different nutrients we might not get if we ate the same thing all the time.

Most people aren’t interested in eating the same salad every single day for lunch, and that’s where offering variety comes in! There are so many options to entice diners to try healthy options that meet their food preferences. Greek-style turkey burgers with kalamata olives, tzatziki sauce, feta cheese, spinach, and cucumbers could be a great alternative to a classic beef burger. Pork fajita bowls with Spanish rice, salsa, cheese, and sauteed peppers and onions are definitely more appealing than some of the fast food alternatives!

Authentic dishes from other cultures or unique twists on their favorite foods just might pique their curiosity and engage them more with your dining offerings.

It supports a collaborative, inclusive culture.

One of the greatest benefits of dining together—aside from the delicious food—is the deep sense of community it can create. Oftentimes collaboration and camaraderie happen over plates and across dining tables. People with dietary restrictions shouldn’t be excluded from that, especially with a growing number of diners with specialized dietary needs.

About 5% of the US population said they followed a vegetarian diet in 2021. Similarly, approximately 2% of the US population identified as vegan in 2022. Other specialized food needs, like halal—which is prepared in accordance with Muslim religious rules—are also increasing in popularity. Additionally, research shows that approximately 32 million Americans have food allergies, and about 5.6 million of those are under the age 18.

Having a dining program that accommodates them could set your company apart by creating greater inclusivity around shared meals, ensuring everyone safely has a seat at the table.

Remember to strategically use your dining!

On-site dining services are one of the most underutilized retention and recruitment tools for organizations that have them. With the right strategy, your on-site dining could become a truly special differentiating experience for current and future members of your team.

Curious what dining creatively could do for your organization? We’d love to discuss your needs.

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