In community catering, it is not unusual to talk about a capacity utilization of just 10-30% compared to previous years – if the facility is open at all. We are all familiar with this new normality, which community catering also has to face. In the meantime, more work will be done from the home office, which is why many businesses are only planning with 80% of the former capacity utilization of their canteens. The mindset change is already here. Find out where the journey is heading.
1. Continuous quality improvement
Since the Corona crisis, the office has been competing with the home office, canteens with to-go offers. There is also a new player: hobby cooks who create great meals for themselves and their loved ones during their lunch break.
But attack is the best defense! Now, more than ever, the workplace must be made more attractive to motivate employees to come to the office. The canteen is a key variable in this regard. With lower capacity utilization and stronger competition, quality must be the top priority today even more than in the past. The task now is to push forward and implement the trends identified before the crisis (which are still highly relevant!): Freshly prepared meals, regional partners, transparent and traceable supply chains – bowls, mini-meals, spreads, shots, … the list is long! Because one thing is certain: the guest’s demand for a high-quality lunch is increasing.
2. Flexibility through digitalization
Let’s not fool ourselves. The catering industry in particular is under increased pressure due to the Corona crisis, but some large companies are also still battling sales slumps. It seems to be the wrong time for a quality offensive. But far from it: it is precisely what is urgently needed to make the office an attractive place to work. The only way to increase quality without causing a cost explosion is called “innovation”.
Digital solutions help reduce fixed costs, increase efficiency, and deploy valuable resources back to where they are needed most. Planning guest numbers is becoming increasingly difficult due to the newly gained flexibility in everyday work. And yet, of all times, we increasingly need flexibility and inventiveness to win back guests. Especially in the ordering and payment process, pre-order apps and staff-less self-checkouts create this flexibility and freedom. Opening hours can be extended without increasing costs in order to react to changing eating habits and trends such as snackification. In the medium term, the self-checkout concept can be developed into a staff-free canteen during off-peak hours. Many things are currently at a crossroad: innovate or die.
3. The hub for corporate communication
You don’t have to ask an expert to understand that the exchange with colleagues, especially in the canteen, is the number one reason why people miss the daily office routine. It is not uncommon for newcomers in particular to have never seen their colleagues in person. But even in well-established teams, the interpersonal need for an informal chat in the coffee kitchen is growing. This gap is a great opportunity for the canteen. Here we can help shape the corporate culture in a very targeted way, serve as a central communication platform and maintain the “we”- feeling among the employees.
4. Contactless towards comfort and safety
“Automated checkouts and a contactless payment process are no longer a nice-to-have, but a must,” says Dr Christian Wulff, partner at PwC Germany. The otherwise very popular self-service counters are just not feasible due to the hygiene measures in communal catering. Therefore, more staff is needed to serve food. The previously economically attractive concept of self-service is falling away and demands a rethink. The self-checkout offers a chance to restore profitability – and at the same time a possibility to guarantee safety for staff and guests by using a contactless payment process. Another path to more convenience and safety that many businesses will follow.
5. To-go is here "to-stay”
At the latest since Delivery Hero is listed on the DAX, there is no longer any doubt about the enormous potential of delivery services. Their role in canteen catering differs from case to case, but they have one thing in common: more and more people work from home. This means that canteens have the task of creating an offer here as well.
In the simplest case, employees organize themselves in so-called “pick-up communities”. Guests simply pick up the food themselves and take it in turns to bring it to other colleagues. Canteens can provide a communication platform for this. But some are already taking this a step further. Early adopters have already announced cooperation with existing delivery services. But that is not all: in the most extreme case, a delivery concept can be expanded to a Ghost Kitchen. This means that the dining room is completely dispensed and only delivery is used. For this, different businesses also need different solutions; however, each one must deal with the topic of to-go in the long term.