The Definitive Guide for Selecting a Food Service Provider for Your Company Cafeteria

 

Table Of Contents

Selecting the right food service provider for your company has many benefits.

I. Company Cafeteria Provider Introduction

Selecting a corporate cafeteria vendor or food service management company is an important strategic decision for your business from several different perspectives. Your chosen cafeteria service provider will not only be in charge of the food service management and food vending for your company, but will also indirectly represent one aspect of your company's persona to employees, guests, vendors, and customers. Rather than assigning an individual to immediately jump in and conduct a simple Google search to find "the best corporate cafeteria vendors", it would be far more effective and better results would be achieved if the executive management team took a more thoughtful and systematic approach.

A. Benefits of Outsourcing Food Service Management for Your Organization

Return on Investment, cost savings and healthy value priced menu choices are just a few of the many tangible benefits that accrue when a professional corporate dining management firm has been chosen to manage your company, industrial or school cafeteria. Intangibly, the right food service provider can become an important component of high employee satisfaction which in-turn makes a strong contribution to the overall success of the company.

Outsourced food service management

B. Do Companies Actually Need Corporate Cafeteria Services?

A Blog post on the Sure Payroll Company website entitled Does Every Company Need a Cafeteria? answers this question. The article itemizes "several benefits of a company cafeteria that include 1. Making it easier to take a lunch break, thus giving employees time to reenergize, 2. Discourages long lunch breaks away from the office, improving productivity and efficiency, and 3. Boosts employee interaction, which can make for a stronger team." The article further asserts that "a growing number of organizations have come to realize that now is the time to offer this perk" to employees.

If the senior management team is considering an investment in a corporate cafeteria management service company for the first time or if the company is exploring the option of replacing an existing cafeteria or food services management vendor that has not performed up to par with satisfying its employee's needs, there are many factors to consider. This document will aid your executive team in understanding the value of this "perk" for the company, help with the justification process and provide insights and considerations that might be easily overlooked.

Employee enjoying company cafeteria services

II. Benefits of A Corporate Cafeteria for the Senior Management Team

Senior executives are charged with the responsibility of generating profits and increasing shareholder value. Many strategic factors enter into this equation. They range from managing a product or services portfolio to providing an environment for employee satisfaction to effectively managing administrative costs. Corporate food service management is an initiative that touches on two of these important components; controlling administrative costs and providing an array of benefits that contribute to employee satisfaction.

Benefits of a corporate cafeteria

Today, enlightened companies are exploring the option of outsourcing food service management to handle the administration of their company cafeteria and employee dining services due to the many real benefits that often go beyond simple cost and time savings. This section will look a little closer at the reasons why corporate cafeteria vendors can help deliver significant benefits to your company through controlling administrative costs and contributing to employee satisfaction. As a senior executive, wouldn't it be nice to have one less thing to deal with?

A. Controlling Administrative Costs - Direct Financial Benefits

Often it is much less expensive for your company to hire an outside firm to handle its cafeteria services and food management activities.

From a cost-of-employee perspective, not only does the company save on wages and benefits, it also saves on the time it would take to hire and train employees to work in a company cafeteria. These costs are easy to document and can be calculated not only in a dollar and cents savings, but also in the time saved by not having to deal with this aspect of managing a cafeteria. Most cafeteria vendors will have an onsite manager to oversee day-today operations, including employee management functions. This manager will administer, either locally onsite or through an administration system at the vendor's corporate office, all wage and salary items, employee hiring and replacement, manage sick time and vacation schedules, and myriad personnel tasks. This increases your company's senior management productivity by diverting food service personnel tasks to your chosen provider.

Additionally, labor laws relative to food management and local and state food purveyance rules and regulations are extensive, require strict compliance, and seemingly change often. Relying on a third party firm to stay abreast of these laws and regulations saves your company time and money as well as minimizing company liability along with reducing liability insurance premium costs.

The financial benefits of corporate cafeteria outsourcing

Not only can your company save on the costs it would expend to hire, train, and pay in-house cafeteria employees, the company can also save money on food costs. This is simple mathematics based on the volume of food purchased. Corporate cafeteria vendors manage the contracts of multiple companies and facilities which gives them the bulk buying power that your company would be unable to achieve based upon the smaller food volume required for your cafeteria. The cafeteria service provider can then factor this food cost savings into their contract with you, thereby reducing the overall cafeteria operational costs.

Senior managers are under great pressure to continually deliver profits to the bottom line. Spending senior executive time managing the cafeteria, food purveyance and food service employees rather than spending time growing your business, is not time well spent!

B. Benefits that Contribute to Employee Satisfaction

Employee Benefits Packages remain high on the list of factors that an employee considers when accepting an employment position. Benefits also play an important role with employee retention. A company that considers employee benefits to be a strategic initiative, rather than "must haves" will have higher employee satisfaction over the long term.

Glassdoor, a jobs and recruiting website, recently published an article entitled "Glassdoor’s 5 Job Trends to Watch in 2016" which asserts "With nearly 3 in 5 (57%) people reporting benefits and perks being among their top considerations before accepting a job ...". According to Glassdoor’s Q3 2015 Employment Confidence Survey, nearly four in five (79%) of employees would prefer new or additional benefits to a pay increase.

Although there are many benefits that could be offered to employees, an on-site cafeteria that offers convenience, healthy menu choices, and value prices can be a much appreciated employee benefit. The company and its senior executives benefit in three (3) important ways:

Employees enjoying themselves in the cafeteria

1. High Employee Morale and Increased Employee Productivity

Improved employee morale results in higher productivity. With the availability of a workplace cafeteria, employees have a place to congregate outside of their immediate office space and the adjacent department area. Meeting peers from other departments in a pleasant venue eliminates feelings of isolation and helps to foster a "sense of belonging" both of which contribute to being part of the overall company culture as well as increased employee productivity. A USA Today Money and Business Section article about the value of a company cafeteria states "It's a worthwhile investment to keep employees happy, and offers a handy choice while maintaining productivity and efficiency."

2. Hiring and Retention

An article about The Office Cafeteria's Key Role published by Sapience Analytics Inc, a time management and productivity analytics company, is summarized as follows: "Many organizations have reported that having a good cafeteria is an important component in attracting and retaining talent. Clearly the cafeteria has an even more key role to play in helping the employees stay engaged while they are at work."

A company cafeteria is great for employee morale

The Society For Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world's largest HR membership organization devoted to human resource management. SHRM recently conducted an analysis of various contributors to employee job satisfaction and found that "Overall Benefits" were the third most important job satisfaction contributor, with 63% of the employees surveyed rated "Overall Benefits" as "very important". Clearly, a good employee benefits package is an integral component of employee satisfaction and plays a vital role with employee retention.

A 2015 Work Design Magazine article states that "Communal, well-designed cafeterias are rising in popularity as spaces that deliver ROI in the form of recruitment, branding, collaboration, and productivity."

Along with being a strategic initiative, many senior executives have concluded that having an onsite company cafeteria is just the "right thing" to do for the company's long term viability. And, with respect to Employee retention: If you want your valued employees to hang around for the long term, a well managed on-site company cafeteria can be one of the elements in retaining them.

Employee benefiting from corporate dining cafeteria services

3. Employee Health and Wellness

We live in a society where there is an increasing emphasis placed on health and the nutritional value that comes in the food we eat. Your employees expect to have options in their food menus that not only deliver variety on a regular basis, but also are designed so they are healthy as well.

Most employees will typically consume one or several meals plus snacks and drinks during a normal work day. In addition to providing tasty, convenient, appetizing and affordable food, the food service vendor must provide healthy choices for meals and snacks. The offerings will favor quality ingredients, whole grains, low-sodium, minimally processed, trans fat free, gluten free and low calorie options.

Importantly, an SHRM poll reveals employees want healthy food options at work The poll shows "forty percent of employers have policies or practices promoting healthy food at work, and employees overwhelmingly like healthy food options. Almost all surveyed (97 percent) said their employees responded “favorably or “very favorably” to efforts to promote wholesome food and drink options at work and work-related functions."

Employee's health benefits from healthy cafeteria

Healthful food at work is a benefit that will pay long term dividends with daily employee energy levels, better overall general health and lower individual medical costs. This can result in employees taking fewer Sick Days as well as an opportunity to negotiate better medical coverage with insurance providers.

A corporate cafeteria that offers healthy food choices and includes a comprehensive wellness program will pay extra high-value dividends. The December 2010 Issue of Harvard Business Review asks the important question What’s the Hard Return on Employee Wellness Programs? and states "Employee wellness programs have often been viewed as a nice extra, not a strategic imperative. But the data shows otherwise. The ROI on comprehensive, well-run employee wellness programs can be as high as 6 to 1."

Many companies are not properly set up to provide health and wellness training to their employees and the companies that are conducting this training only do it intermittently. Wellness programs can be expensive to both develop and deliver to employees, and, unless this initiative is outsourced, it will require hiring additional employees with specialized training. It is difficult to place a number value on staying up-to-date with this type of specialized training, but it is one less concern when you can partner with cafeteria management companies that have a focus on Wellness Programs as part of their service offering. Their staff of nutritionists will stay abreast of the latest nutritional guidelines, review the latest research and impart this important information to the chefs who are preparing the menu choices for your employees.

When the senior management team views a company cafeteria as a strategic initiative as part of an overall wellness program and not just a benefit, employees will take notice. To summarize, healthy employees will generally cost a company much less money due to a reduction in sick days, lower insurance premiums, and overall higher productivity.

Healthy food service equals healthy employees

III. Benefits and Services Provided by Innovative Cafeteria Management Companies

Your company will be investing both time and money in a food services operation and you will want the food service vendor to provide the highest value for your company's specific needs. The success of this initiative will depend upon two primary factors. One, the actual tangible benefits provided on a daily basis and, two, how well the food vendor manages the services.

A. Actual Tangible Benefits

There are many features, benefits and functionality that corporate cafeteria vendors could offer as part of their services portfolio. A comprehensive list of expected services to be provided to your company might include the following:

  • The ability to cost-effectively design a new cafeteria or remodel an existing outdated dining area for improving traffic flow, expansion increased energy efficiency.
  • A comprehensive on-site catering service and events management service for special company events, either casual or formal, with an event planner that can accommodate music, entertainers, flowers, special linens, tents and chairs and other special requests.
  • An on-site management team that oversees operations and interfaces with your company's management team.
  • An online system for ordering and scheduling via a website to customize menus for parties, conference room meetings or special dining needs.
  • A coffee service for company conference rooms or for entertaining visiting clients. Efficient brewing equipment, installation and maintenance included along with a variety of popular coffee brands.
  • An "environmentally friendly" focused vendor that will support your company's green, recycling, and waste disposal initiatives.
  • An established network for buying produce from local area farms to provide healthy food choices for your employees and supporting your company's community relations efforts.
  • A cafeteria service provider that is "socially conscious" and gives back to the charities in the local communities they serve as well as to vital national charities and non-profit organizations.
  • The ability to provide Wellness Programs, seminars and workshops on dieting, stress and choosing healthy food options.
  • Vending machines in the cafeteria for employees who are working an extra long day or vending machines conveniently located throughout the facilities for employees to grab quick and healthy snacks or light meals throughout the day. Reliable maintenance services are a must (24 X7).
  • A company that is "on board" with technology and utilizes the latest POS Systems, Inventory Control Management, Online Ordering Solutions, Time and Attendance Systems and Payroll Management Services.
  • A company that is committed to "Service Excellence" and has ongoing training for all their front-line service personnel.
  • An on-site management team focused on assuming full responsibility for implementing and managing all your company's food management needs.

Benefits of a Cafeteria Management Company

B. Intangible Benefits - The Cafeteria Vendors Operating Philosophy

During the contract's sales and marketing process, many promises are made, some are factual, yet there are some that will result in unrealized expectations for any number of reasons. Those companies reading this article that have already contracted with a food service company and are now looking for a new provider will thoroughly understand the subtleties discussed in this section. First-timers can learn and benefit from the experiences of other companies who have walked down this path. This section is not intended to disparage any of the corporate cafeteria services providers as no one company is perfect, and each has their own unique strengths and operating philosophies. However, it is suggested that a more in-depth due diligence process would serve your company well in the following areas.

Customized Dining Programs: As part of their services portfolio, the corporate dining management company should have the ability and desire to create and manage site specific food service programs. Depending on your company's employee demographics, the food services vendor may be requested to customize or expand their dining options to meet your company's unique needs. An important "test" is the vendor's management teams willingness to accommodate these requests along with providing these options at a reasonable cost. A "cookie cutter" approach is easy and less costly for them to implement, yet in the longer term it may not achieve your corporate goals or satisfy your employee's palate. It will cost the food services provider more money and time to customize and manage a unique program, but having the flexibility and willingness to do this is an indication they understand and appreciate your company's specific requirements as well as value the business relationship.

Some corporate cafeteria vendors will assert they build site specific food service programs but often they're quite limited and not very extensive. Upon further evaluation, you may discover the vendors service offerings are standardized and rigid. Although this may work in some venues, their approach lacks creativity and a willingness to compromise which may not be optimally beneficial for your company's employees.

Flexibility of customized dining programs

Diner Experience: It’s all about the diner experience, not only from a food offering perspective, but also from a customer service point of view. At one time or another we have all experienced a "sour taste" from rude wait staff in even the finest of restaurants. Poorly trained guest services personnel from your food services provider will significantly diminish the dining experience for your employees. Your vendor's personnel must treat your employees with the respect and courtesy they deserve.

Good cafeteria management companies will have a "customer excellence" philosophy that starts with their senior management team and sets the standard for all their employees. Customer sensitivity training should occur on a regular basis. A corporate cafeteria services vendor that values good customer service will make this a vital part of their corporate mission, and how well an employee executes these principles becomes an integral part of the Employee Review process. When customer service is measured and is part of an employee's development plan, service tends to be performed at higher levels. Investments in training programs are expensive, yet the results show up in client satisfaction surveys and food service contract renewals.

Flexibility of the cafeteria management team

Flexibility of the Corporate Cafeteria Services Management Team: Outsourcing food service management to a third party is an initiative that requires flexibility. Flexibility comes in many forms and it is necessary to understand how flexible the cafeteria service provider will be with its offerings to accommodate your company's needs. Are they able to make changes quickly or are they slow and unresponsive through their management bureaucracy? Does the vendors senior management team have the customer service professionalism to make it a priority to take care of you, the client, no matter what, or do they simply have too much to do and can’t fulfill the request in a timely manner. If things aren't going well, are they flexible enough to change how they manage your cafeteria? Are they flexible with providing a full range of food and drink offerings at varying price points? Oftentimes, being flexible enough to adapt to unexpected circumstances in a productive manner will help ensure a successful vendor relationship.

Purchasing Practices of Cafeteria Vendors: All corporate cafeteria services companies have purchasing arrangements in place with suppliers and wholesalers, and it is prudent to do so. However, if some of these purchasing agreements are exclusive arrangements they may not be in your company's best interests. For example, if your company wants Coke™ (or any other food or drink brand) but the Food Service Company has an agreement with only Pepsi™ because they are receiving significant rebate money from the Pepsi™ distributor, then obviously the Food Service Company is unlikely to offer the Coke™ products that your company wants, or they may be unable to do so because they have locked themselves into an exclusive agreement. However, reputable cafeteria vendors will ensure their agreements are broad and flexible enough to allow themselves the ability to work with a variety of vendors and not prevent them from working with a particular supplier or wholesaler.

Corporate cafeteria provider serving coffee

Easy Access to the Corporate Cafeteria Vendor’s Management Team: The accessibility and visibility of the corporate food service management team is an important consideration for having a mutually beneficial partnership with your company's management team. Some service providers have Area or District Managers who are responsible for twenty (20) or more accounts while others have their Area or District Managers responsible for only ten (10) or twelve (12) accounts. A District Manager focused on managing a smaller number of accounts guarantees that this manager will be able to focus more energy and effort on your account needs. With fewer accounts to manage, the District Manager will be at your facility more often to support the onsite team as well as having the time necessary to meet with your company's management team to review both progress and challenges.

Additionally, the District Manager should have easy access to their senior management team. Importantly, they will have the recognized influence and authority to support their accounts with senior executives and critical support staff such as the Director of Corporate Dining, VP Business Development, Director of Culinary Services, Corporate Executive Chef, Director of Culinary Safety or even the company President, if necessary. Higher success is achieved when account management is a "team approach".

Staff Stability: High employee turnover can become a major disruption to quality service levels. Low paying service jobs are not motivating and these employees generally have a low commitment level. To be successful, cafeteria companies should be seeking highly qualified personnel that have a personal drive to be successful also. This requires two investments. First, is an above average pay rate, a good benefits program and an opportunity for advancement. Second, is a comprehensive training program that instills a respectful customer service philosophy. A corporate cafeteria services vendor with a high turnover rate will not be able to service your company in a cost-effective manner nor provide the expected and/or promised value with both the quality of the food presented and the operation of the cafeteria.

Stable cafeteria staff

Contract Pricing of Cafeteria Management Services: This is about all the items discussed above: Customized Dining Programs, Diner Experience, Flexibility, Purchasing Practices, Easy Access to the Management Team and Staff Stability. All these factors become a component in how a food service contract is priced. The old adage that "You get what you pay for" applies here. A low contract price may be a "red flag" and a predictor of problems once the contract starts. If the food service provider low-balled the financial projections to secure your contract, then costs need to be reduced elsewhere. If they pay their employees at a low hourly rate, then high turnover will occur which affects the program negatively. Trying to backfill these low paying positions will be difficult. Newer employees will not be well trained and may have minimal practical experience resulting in below average customer service.

Depending on rebate money to achieve profit margins is a high risk strategy as the manufacturer/producer of food products can change the incentives without notice, thereby jeopardizing the financial stability of the service contract. Additionally, any customized dining program could also be placed at risk with the vendor being unable to deliver specific food options at the quality promised.

Summary of the Food Service Company's Operating Philosophy: Asking the "right" questions will help you receive the best answers. The prospective vendor should be able to provide employee turnover rates for their frontline employees, provide examples of their training programs, discuss purchasing contract flexibility, ratios of District managers to clients, employee career paths, provide justification for the financial projections and convince you of senior management's commitment to your account. Your selection committee must feel comfortable with all the factors your company considers to be important for a successful implementation of your workplace cafeteria.

Next let's explore just how valuable the benefit of investing in a corporate cafeteria management services vendor can be for your company's employees.

Food service company's operating philosophy

IV.  Benefits of a Company Cafeteria for Your Valued Employees

It has been said many times from a variety of sources, including Harvard Business Review, that a company's most valuable asset is their employees. Time is probably the most valuable asset for any employee and most employees are faced with many inconveniences and frustrations during the course of an average work day. Any benefit that a forward-looking company could provide to an employee that saves time, makes their activities more efficient or provides a convenience, will be a benefit that is highly valued by all employees. The availability of an on-site company cafeteria with a wide and healthy variety of food service choices is one of those important time savers and convenience opportunities.

The following scenarios are a sampling of many of the frustrations and time wasters that could easily be eliminated for your valued employees with the convenience of an onsite company cafeteria.

A. Employee Inconvenience and Frustration #1: Finding the Time for a Healthy Breakfast.

Most of us would like to start our work day off with a healthy breakfast or at least a hot cup of coffee. Finding the time to brew coffee and cook breakfast at home can be next to impossible on some days and very time consuming on others. With the time constraints of getting children ready for school, dropping children off at day care, a visit to a doggy dare care center, helping an elderly parent get settled for the day, arising early for a quick run in the park, preparing lunches for everyone, meeting your car pool buddies, or perhaps a few early morning errands, we often skip this important meal or we settle for fast food along the route to work. This means waiting in line at the drive thru window of a coffee shop and then juggling workday paraphernalia along with a fast food, take-out breakfast and a hot coffee cup from the car into the building, up the elevator and then to a desk or work station. More often than not something gets dropped or coffee is spilled along the way and the employee arrives at their desk frazzled before the day has even begun.

 

Solution #1 A better option is to order breakfast or a freshly brewed cup of coffee from the company cafeteria. It is much more convenient and far less stressful for employees to drop their paraphernalia at their desk, leave their coat and take a short walk to the cafeteria for a quickly served healthy breakfast and a freshly brewed, hot cup of coffee. Whether they enjoy eating breakfast in the cafeteria or stroll back to their desk with a coffee cup in hand while exchanging greetings with co-workers along the way, the work day starts out on a much more positive, less stressful and pleasant note.

Employees enjoying breakfast service

B. Employee Inconvenience and Frustration #2: The Stress of Eating at Your Desk.

It has been proven that eating lunch at your desk is an unhealthy habit in terms of both stress and digestion. Employees eating at their desks tend to mindlessly and distractedly keep nibbling more than they would ordinarily consume while focused on work tasks. Time crunched employees eating at their desks generally consume fast food items or unhealthy snacks compromising their long term health. Constant interruptions from phone calls and co-workers stopping by with problems or deadlines, translates to a stressed work environment and tense, exhausted employees who do not have a mental or physical break all day.

 

Solution #2 Walking away from a desk and taking a short break from work related activity is a positive mental health habit. A change of scenery even for a brief time increases mental acuity, efficiency and productivity. The availability of an office or corporate cafeteria gives employees a welcome change of scenery along with a well-balanced, healthy meal and allows them to return to their desks refreshed, re-energized and ready to be productive once again. A cafeteria also eliminates the hassle of driving to a restaurant for lunch and dealing with parking, long lines or slow service.

Employee enjoying lunch in the corporate cafeteria

C. Employee Inconvenience and Frustration #3: Boring and Unhealthy Lunches.

Anyone who has packed a daily lunch for work knows that it becomes tedious and is often done quickly. It can be challenging to make a well balanced lunch that includes a variety of healthy foods every day of the week without repeating the same menu over and over. Leftovers or peanut butter sandwiches are often the default menu. When lunch time rolls around these repetitive lunches are sometimes found to be quite unappealing. There is nothing worse than craving Italian food when your home packed lunch contains a tuna sandwich on stale bread because that’s all that was available at home that day. Local fast food restaurants tend to have a limited menu with a lot of unhealthy choices. After all, how many days a week can you eat pizza, chicken fingers or ham and cheese subs?

 

Solution #3 A company cafeteria that serves a variety of hot meals, salads, soups, varied types of sandwiches, fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh baked breads, desserts and a wide array of beverages offers more than enough options to provide employees with a selection of healthy choices every day. Employees are able to choose on the spot the meal they feel like eating at the time from the multiple options available at varying price points. An onsite company cafeteria offers a much greater variety of lunch foods on a daily basis than any home kitchen can offer.

Employee serving healthy food

D. Employee Inconvenience and Frustration #4: Cost of Lunch.

One would assume that bringing a lunch to work from home would be a cost saving endeavor. However, when factoring in the time spent grocery shopping, the cost of buying all the ingredients needed to prepare a lunch that equals a cafeteria meal and the required prep time, the cost of the made at home lunch escalates. If you opt for a sit down restaurant lunch on a daily basis a hefty chunk of your paycheck will be missing at the end of the month. Although convenient, even fast food can be pricey and is generally less than nutritious, placing your health at risk.

 

Solution #4 If you compare the expenses of bringing lunch from home, dining in a restaurant, or indulging in fast food versus eating in the company cafeteria, the work place cafeteria could be your most cost effective option by providing the best quality, the most variety and at a value price.

Eating Out is Expensive

E.  Employee Inconvenience and Frustration #5: Time Wasters.

In our fast paced world, time is of the essence during the workday. Time lost during the day stopping for coffee on the road or getting caught in traffic driving to and from lunch means some employees are apt to fall behind schedule and either put in extra hours after regularly scheduled work time, sloppily rush through tasks to complete them on time or fail to meet deadlines. Rushed and harried employees equal substandard work and tired, unhappy workers.

 

Solution #5 A well-serviced employee dining area increases time efficiency by offering employees snacks, beverages and meals conveniently located just a short walk from their desks without the need to leave the building, enabling them to enjoy their breaks and quickly return to their desks to complete their assigned work on time. A company cafeteria saves valuable time for employees and increases overall company productivity.

Employees saving time eating in the corporate cafeteria

F. Employee Inconvenience and Frustration #6: Employee Isolation.

Isolation of employees from co-workers, particularly those who work in other departments is a workplace problem and is demoralizing for some employees. Without a central gathering spot people are missing an opportunity to develop friendships and to collaborate on work projects with their co-workers. Employees become disconnected from the company and tend to pass their peers in the hallways without recognition. Isolation results in employees focusing on individual responsibilities and personal career goals rather than the goals of the company as a whole.

Solution #6 One of the most pleasant benefits of an on-site company cafeteria is the opportunity to socialize with co-workers. Food brings people together and friendships are formed over a meal in the cafeteria. Employees can schedule their lunch breaks together and catch up with old friends or get to know a new employee by sharing a table. Exchanging personal and work experiences across the table makes for a friendlier and more welcoming work environment. Catching up on company business news keeps you current and in the loop with new developments. Employees who know their co-workers personally are more apt to work better together as a team. The focus changes from individual career goals to working for the success of the co-workers who have become respected friends. The success of everyone in the company becomes the focus. A company cafeteria is a place to build friendships and foster company loyalty.

Attract Ideal Employees with the Benefit of a Corporate Cafeteria

G. Employee Inconvenience and Frustration #7: Minimal Face-to-Face Communication.

Interdepartmental projects lend themselves to problems when the only means of communication is e-mail or phone conversations between several individuals. In particular, e-mail communications can easily be misunderstood, compromising the outcome of the project. It becomes difficult to delegate project responsibilities without awareness of individual strengths and weaknesses without a face-to-face meeting and getting to know fellow employees on a personal level. Without a convenient, comfortable meeting place these interactions seldom take place.

Solution #7 A workplace cafeteria provides a convenient venue for an employee to personally meet employees from other departments they have interacted with only by phone or an e-mail in the past. Meeting with a co-worker to discuss an interdepartmental project over a cup of coffee in the cafeteria avoids e-mail misunderstandings, encourages mutual respect, helps in finding common ground, identifies personal work related strengths, assists in work collaboration and encourages teamwork. An article from the December 2015 issue of Harvard Business Review entitled Team Building in the Cafeteria stated that "Cooperative behavior, for example, was considerably greater—about twice as high—among team members who ate with one another than among those who didn’t."

A well-designed company cafeteria is an ideal place to network, to share ideas and to conduct business meetings, whether they are interdepartmental meetings, department head meetings, management team meetings, project team meetings, an employee recognition meeting or a meeting to celebrate the accomplishment of an important department or company goal. A shared meal, snack or cup of coffee builds camaraderie among employees and loyalty to the company.

Employees bonding in cafeteria

H. Employee Inconvenience and Frustration #8: Unplanned Disruptions.

Business meetings with executives or vendors visiting from other companies as well as sales and marketing personnel hosting client and prospect meetings often involve airport pick-ups and hosting duties at a local restaurant. Airplanes often arrive late and meetings can take an unexpected turn that requires more discussion time. Additionally, finding a restaurant to match everyone’s tastes can be challenging. Unproductive time is spent dealing with traffic and parking issues to reach your destination. Add in the time it takes to be seated, peruse menus, order and be served, the meeting now becomes an inefficient and lengthy affair. The high noise level in most restaurants is distracting and not conducive to serious business discussions.

Solution #8 There are several benefits to continuing these business meetings in a company conference room and having the employee cafeteria provide a catered lunch. Each meeting attendee is able to order and enjoy the meal of their choice. The food is nutritious and tasty and the service is fast and friendly. If a question comes up that needs the expertise of an employee not in attendance at the meeting, a quick phone call and a short walk is all that is required for the employee to arrive at the cafeteria, or at the conference room, to provide additional information and to clarify any questions. The odds of finishing the meeting on time and catching the next flight out for your visitors are greatly improved with in-house food services.

These eight (8) scenarios and their variations play out in many companies every day. Let Them Eat Lunch; American workers don’t take enough breaks. That’s why every company needs a cafeteria. is an article from Slate, a daily web magazine, that suggests "for most American workers, lunch is sadder by an order of magnitude. Less than 20 percent regularly take a “real lunch break,” according to one study. Working parents between 25 and 54 spend on average just one hour eating and drinking during a 24-hour workday, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Other surveys suggest that most people hurriedly eat lunch at their desks, or skip it altogether. The article also states "There’s a simple solution that can make workers less harried and companies more productive: Nearly every company - - even small ones - - should have a cafeteria."

Employee enjoying corporate catering service

V. Getting Started with the Cafeteria Vendors Selection Process

Choosing a corporate cafeteria management service provider that is the right fit for your company will depend on the individual needs of your business which will typically range from the budget available to the existing cafeteria facility (if any) to employee food preferences. With this in mind, a systematic approach can be taken starting with the executive team choosing a small selection committee. The following steps provide a road map to finding and choosing the right food service provider while keeping in mind that any of these steps can be customized or reordered to best fit your unique business needs. This is especially true if the company is conducting an assessment to replace an existing food service vendor.

Step 1. Forming a Selection Committee

A typical selection committee would consist of a senior manager from the Finance Department to help the committee understand the numbers and the economic justification methodology, a senior manager from Human Resources to provide input for managing the overall employee benefits package, the company's Facility Manager as equipment, floor space and utilities will be required, several mid-level managers from various operating departments to help provide a broad-based perspective, several individual contributors that have been identified as "Up and Comers" as a continued opportunity for employee development, and a mid-level manager (s) from the second or third shift to gain their unique insights.

Step 2. Goals Identification

A member of the senior executive team should review the scope of the project and expectations at the first selection committee meeting, including any limitations with respect to capital investment and operating cost considerations as well as the approximate timeline for completion. Drilling down from the expectations, a set of goals, action items and a project calendar can be established. A suggested action item at this stage of the selection process could be a brief employee survey for food preferences and price points as well as expected cafeteria usage for breakfast and lunch. An "open ended" question could be asked on the survey about an employee's cafeteria experience at a recent former place of employment relative to food quality, prices, menu options and the responsiveness of food service personnel.

Three additional suggestions would be the development of a comprehensive list of tangible and intangible benefits along with ranking factors to determine the relative importance of each benefit, a list of the expected customer service quality attributes the food vendor should display, and a comprehensive list of expected services to be provided (See Section IV above to assist with developing this list).

Based upon these tasks, the selection committee will most likely discover some suggestions and additional recommendations for the executive team. Preparation of a written "First Phase" report and a presentation by the Selection Committee to the Executive Team will validate the findings and will provide an opportunity to tweak the overall mission, if necessary, to gain consensus before launching forward with the actual selection process.

Food service employees prepping cafeteria food service

Step 3. Conducting Your Due Diligence

Start by assessing the marketplace for the purpose of finding a strong list of food management service vendors who appear to posses the qualifications needed to be a good partner. We say "appear to be" because at this point in the search you will not be certain of a candidate's true qualities. From the lists created in Step 2, your committee should now have a list of "must-have", "no-compromise" services and qualities where it will be required of the candidates to prove they are capable of delivering these qualities.

During the due diligence phase, keep in mind that corporate food service management companies are available in a variety of sizes and levels of expertise. With this in mind, the preferred vendor needs to have a strong "past performance" record. The past performance record will be a good indicator of the company's ability to fulfill your company's requirements.

Online queries for search phrases such as "corporate cafeteria vendors", "corporate dining companies", "cafeteria vendors", "cafeteria management companies", "cafeteria service providers", "outsourcing food service management", "corporate cafeteria services", "corporate cafeteria management service", "company cafeteria", "corporate dining management", "corporate food service management", "office cafeteria" and "cafeteria companies", for example, with a geographical location modifier for your city, state or region will produce an initial list of potential candidates to be catalogued.

Using the search phrases recommended above, conducting additional queries for customer reviews, press releases, and thematic articles will help you compile a list of potential vendors as well as gain an understanding of the cafeteria service provider's operating philosophy. These insights will help to eliminate vendors that may be too small or large, don't have all the services your company requires, or, importantly, identify potential customer service or food quality issues. Cross-referencing the data from these search queries will narrow the list of prospective food vendors down to the three or five firms you would like to contact with an RFP.

Cafeteria Beverage Vending

Step 4. Preparing a Request For Proposal (RFP)

Determining if potential corporate cafeteria vendors will be able to fulfill your company's desired food service expectations will generally require the preparation of a formal RFP. Most companies have an existing "standard" RFP format that is typically modified for specific or unique purposes and using the company's format will most likely serve the selection committee's purposes quite well. The more information that can be provided to the three or five vendors you've identified for further consideration will only help improve the quality of the responses you will receive. Suggested items to include in the RFP are:

  • A description of your company and its products and services.
  • Employee demographic information.
  • Hours of operation.
  • The full scope of your company's food service needs as you understand them today and if you will consider other options/suggestions from the vendors.
  • The date and time of a mandatory walk-through of your company's facilities, if desired.
  • Description of the cafeteria space, the equipment that may be available, and how equipment repairs will be handled.
  • Additional design work that might need to be completed to the company's existing cafeteria or supplemental equipment required, including ownership rights.
  • Federal, State and City laws of which the vendor must be compliant.
  • Expected compliance with any of your company's recycling and other "green" initiatives as well as garbage and rubbish disposal expectations.
  • Payment options required for the diners "ease of use".
  • Expectations for how the vendor will market the cafeteria through the company newsletter or a web page, for example.
  • Provisions for bussing and cleaning tabletops in the dining area and if your company's custodial service will clean floors, walls, and other hard services in the dining area.
  • Itemization of Record Keeping requirements.
  • How the vendor stays abreast of new health laws and how this is monitored with their employees.
  • Specific criteria that a vendor must demonstrate if they are to be awarded the contract, as well as past performance examples and references.
  • The preferred format for response and due date.

It is also important to state what the proposal does NOT include as well as other restrictions. Some restrictions may be that your company has existing food and kitchen equipment that you want the vendor to use, the option to utilize food vending machines throughout various locations in the company provided by another third party, the exclusion of coffee services in the RFP because these services are already being satisfactorily provided by another third party in office areas and conference rooms, and if you are a school and want to retain the rights for the bookstore to sell convenience foods or similarly if you are a hospital with a gift shop, for example.

Smiling corporate cafeteria vendor

Step 5. Determining the Chosen Corporate Cafeteria Services Finalists

It is important to note that all of the cafeteria management companies you have chosen might not respond to your RFP for a multitude of reasons including your company size, their company size, timing, availability of personnel, conflicts of interest with an existing client, inability to meet all of your service requirements, your facility location is on the outer edge of their service area or other business reasons. When these firms voluntarily "opt out", it makes the selection committee's job a little easier.

Now it's time to carefully read the responses of those interested vendors who did submit an RFP. No doubt that each vendor's response will have a lot of "marketing verbiage" and "filler" designed to favorably present their offerings, yet carefully reading, comparing and prioritizing their responses to your established criteria and all the lists created in Step 2 is essential.

Your chosen top two or three finalists will be those companies that have demonstrated a clear understanding of your food service needs, have responded fully to all the criteria in the RFP and have strong past performance examples that clearly showcase their ability to meet or exceed all expectations.

Once you have chosen the finalists, notify them of your interest in scheduling an on-site visit to one of their clients that are similar to your company's demographics and food service needs.

Corporate cafeteria employee service

Step 6. Scheduling An Onsite Visit

Scheduling a visit to a vendor account that closely emulates your company's criteria, including company size, demographics, budget and layout of the dining area will be a key element in the decision making process. This vendor visit will give you a chance to better understand and witness the finalist's offerings.

Importantly, schedule your visit during breakfast or lunch and sample the vendor's offerings. This also proves an opportunity to observe how this vendor performs in "real time" with respect to customer service, employee friendliness, and ease of payment.

Interview the host executives to determine how easy the vendor is to work with, if the budget is maintained, and if the food quality is consistent and of appropriate value for the budget allowed. Some important questions will be: Do employees frequently gather there for impromptu meetings or to discuss work projects?, What percentage of employees use the cafeteria for lunch or breakfast?, Do various levels of the management, marketing and sales teams feel comfortable hosting guests, vendors, and customers in the cafeteria?, Are there any surveys to validate what employees think of the food quality, menu choices, and customer service?, Is the food services on-site management team responsive to problems or requests, and are they open to new suggestions? The most important question will be "Are you planning on renewing your contract in the coming year?" Hopefully your hosts will share the reasons why or why not.

Immediately after the visit, compare your visitation's notes against your company's established criteria and specific needs.

Once this phase is completed and if the selection committee feels they need a little more info before a final decision is made, consider having the finalists prepare an in-person presentation to your selection committee at your facility. This should not be just an "exercise" as all parties have already invested a significant amount of time and energy to reach this stage, but instead is an opportunity to help solidify the selection committee's decision.

Cafeteria service provider providing food service for employee

Step 7. Listening to the Presentation Pitch

An in-house presentation by the vendor finalists to the selection committee can take several forms ranging from a Power Point presentation where the vendor gives their "pitch" based upon their understanding of your company's needs or it could take the form of a round table discussion whereby the selection committee has their top ten or twelve key questions or points of clarification to discuss. Alternatively, the key questions could be provided to the vendors in advance so they can prepare their presentations focused mostly on these items.

Preparing for the vendor presentations is a valuable step. Whichever format is used, the format should be the one that the committee feels is designed to help them determine a clear winner. An ample length of time for the presentation would typically be approx 90 minutes which would include a one-hour presentation and one-half hour of questions.

However, if the selection Committee believes they have preliminarily decided on their first choice, then skip the vendor presentations and bring the finalist in for a detailed discussions of any "loose ends", an implementation plan, and any clarifications of the Terms and Conditions before a service contract is drawn up.

Step 8. The Final Selection Phase

After the presentation phase has been completed, the selection committee will need to make a decision. Oftentimes the choice of vendor will be obvious and the selection committee will be in agreement regarding the selected vendor. If the decision is still close between two vendors, develop a series of follow-up questions that will help solidify the decision or ask each vendor if there is something else that could be done to reduce the initial investment, minimize operating costs, or include an additional high-value service at no extra cost?

It is important that your committee chooses the cafeteria service provider that is most likely to meet both your current and perceived future needs. Finally, it is important that the selected vendor is best aligned to your established criteria, while simultaneously emulating all of the qualities that you were seeking from a service provider. In short, the chosen provider should have the ability to become a great long-term partner for your company. As part of this phase, prepare a presentation for the executive team itemizing the criteria for selection, your scorecard, and the intangible reasons why the specific vendor was chosen.

Corporate dining employee holding ladle

Step 9. Creating The Cafeteria Services Contract

Following the executive teams approval of the chosen cafeteria management company, a contract will need to be executed. The contract should be clear, understandable, and aligned to the RFP's initial description and budget as well as including any unique requirements discovered during the evaluation process. Once the terms are negotiated and agreed upon, and the contract is in place, the selection committee can sit back and enjoy working with their chosen cafeteria management company.

No doubt, there will be some changes and adjustments to services and menu options after the first few months of operation as both parties adjust to a new environment. The contract should itemize a flexible and easy amendment process if such a need occurs. Also, a few meetings should be scheduled with the vendor to discuss any operational items and ensure that expectations are being met.

Step 10. An Alternate Step

Although what has been itemized above is a detailed selection process, depending upon some unique circumstances it may not be necessary to complete all these steps. For example, if you have executives or middle managers that have selected a cafeteria management service firm while employed at another company, this executives experience will allow a selection committee to immediately focus on one or two finalists. Another example may be when a company executive who has a peer at a comparable size company that has already engaged a food services firm and can provide valuable insights and a favorable recommendation. If either or both of these events occur, it can significantly help reduce the committee's workload, research and timeline for the selection process.

Corporate dining employee serving up healthy solutions

VI. The Bottom Line

Start Enjoying the Benefits of a Cafeteria Service Provider:

Once the selection committee has completed its search for a service provider and the cafeteria is operational, your company will be ready to enjoy the numerous tangible and intangible benefits. From an increased ROI to improved cost and time savings to employee satisfaction, you will soon be wondering why you didn't hire a cafeteria management service provider earlier. Through a thoughtful, systematic approach you can and will find the food service provider who can help you meet your current and future cafeteria management needs.

In short, with the help of a cafeteria management service company, the senior management team can focus on the company's most important and strategic tasks rather than worry about the time consuming day-to-day operations of the cafeteria. Leave these operational tasks to your chosen cafeteria service provider so that your business can flourish to the benefit of your employees, vendors, customers, and guests.

Infographic illustrating how a company cafeteria improves employee relations