Facility Managers, what consequences has hybrid working for your catering portfolio?
In the last months, we all have been talking about what return-to-office will look like and if all office employees will come back to office in the same intensity as before the pandemic. Several studies have taken place and we, facility managers, have read many of them. Although there is still some time to go before we go back to some semblance of a new normal, whatever that may be, it gets clearer every day that hybrid working is here to stay.
How does this flexible going in and out of the buildings we manage impact our catering?
Catering to celebrate physical team gatherings while respecting diversity
In times when remote working is happening at a large scale, gathering as a team will feel like a moment to celebrate. Celebration implies good food and drinks. Not only the quality of the catering should be correct, but it also must suit the specific preferences of the team coming together, or even of the team members individually. Strange celebration it would be if we would serve veggie-lovers and all you can eat spare-rib lunch! Moreover, as these gatherings can take place at any moment of the day, catering has to be available at any time. Individuality plus all-time availability -- not an easy one to solve.
Corporate catering marketplaces by startups
Luckily, we now have access to startups to solve this puzzle. In the last few years, startups specialized in “corporate catering marketplaces” are growing quickly. These startups have created digital platforms in which all kinds of local catering companies can offer food and beverage packages to the corporations in their city. The advantage for us, as facility managers, is that we can leave it up to the department managers to order the F&B they would like to receive at the hour that suits them best. Our corporation then receives one centralized invoice from the startup and not tons of different invoices.
The startups running the corporate catering platforms take care of curating the individual catering partners they work with. They have an account management team to assist us with a quick and easy basic set-up.
Examples of corporate catering platforms
Catevering is a startup from Barcelona founded in 2018 by Laura Gómez Perarnau. It is a free platform where companies can compare, customize and book the ideal catering for their team breakfasts, meetings, after-works, teambuilding and special events. Catevering’s B2B catering platform is available in Barcelona, Seville, Valencia and other Spanish cities. In Germany, we can find heycater and Bella & Bona; in the UK, there is City Pantry and Feedr and in the US, ezCater and Fooda, among many others.
B2B catering platforms are on the rise, buoyed by teleworking during the pandemic and the resulting hybrid working that is expected in the future. In terms of scalability, catering platforms are no different than other platforms and marketplaces that have made it big globally. The formula of replicating the operation in each city they disembark in is straightforward – finding and curating local partners, growing the network of food providers and even finding investors. Catevering for example, received a major Russian investment in 2020 and is now serving in Russian cities.
Another way for the startup to expand is if it can find a big corporate client or big real estate office specialist with enough potential employee orders to be able roll out its platform with some first basic guaranteed revenue at that specific city. So, if you are a big corporate player, and in your city there is not yet a B2B catering marketplace platform available, do not hesitate to approach the startups of your choice and ask them for possibilities.
The power of these platforms has not been left unattended by the well-known B2B caterers in our industry. Aramark signed a contract with Catevering in January 2021, offering their meals through the platform, and Sodexo with French startup FoodChéri.
Catering employees individually, at home
We all can imagine that these corporate catering startups got an immense punch in the stomach during Covid-19, just as all restaurateurs around the globe. But a startup is not a startup if it does not show amazing agility in pivoting and adapting to the “new normal”. These platforms now offer corporations packages of F&B delivered individually to each employee’s doorstep. This can be a gin and tonic set, to get together online as a team on Friday afternoon, cookies for Father’s Day, cakes for birthdays, etc. Sending an employee good food is a gesture of warmth and caring. It reinforces employee connection to the team and the company. In these difficult times where team bonding is so important, use food as one of your tools.
If you are an FM service provider involved in corporate catering in a classical canteen-wise way, you might want to give it a thought too. Remember: it is of utmost importance to all facility management stakeholders to keep up with the digitalization of our societies. Do not miss the bandwagon, thinking it does not affect you!