At the end of a year, trends and predictions for the upcoming year usually start to roll in and appear in leading publications, blogs, and social media. What will we be eating at work in this brand-new decade?
After working directly with food–first companies for years, hosting my podcast and inviting guests to discuss some emerging themes, and analyzing the research, conversations, and interviews I have my finger on the pulse about what’s happening in organizations globally at the crossroad of food, people, and culture.
Here I’ve distilled five key trends that will be impacting office food culture and your organization in 2020 and beyond.
1. There will be more to eating at work than healthy eating
For so long, eating at work meant focusing on nutrition. Many people assume that my role is that of a nutritionist––someone who puts workers on a diet to be more productive. Focusing on weight––and weightloss strategies––is not only ineffective but also counterproductive and shaming. It’s clear that those strategies don’t work and don’t make any sense.
Next, we’ll be seeing a shift from a physical only, biomedical model to approaching eating at work holistically. Health and nutrition is one aspect that should be considered when designing a food program for your employees but it’s not the only one.
GO DEEPER: Learn more about nutrition and wellbeing in the workplace in episode 06 of The Nourishing Workplace with nutritionist and wellbeing expert Kate Cook.
2. Food will be more than just a benefit
In most organizations’ career pages today, meals are popular dishes on the employee benefits menu (pun intended!). The rise of corporate catering companies and daily lunch deliveries confirms this trend. But as with the biomedical aspect, we’ll also move away from food being considered only a benefit. Offering food to your employees is not a differentiator anymore.
Instead, the most progressive companies are integrating their food offerings into their cultures, people, and company goals. With this shift, we might also see a change in terminology. Today we say ‘corporate food programs’. In the future, we could probably use ‘corporate food culture‘?
3. Corporate food teams will grow
As food becomes part of company culture, more companies will have their own food functions; food teams whose goal is to improve the employee experience through food experiences.
In the past five years, food teams have spurred in tech companies such as Google, Airbnb, and Canva, with different names in different companies. At Airbnb, the Food Team is in charge of the employee food experience. At Canva, the food & beverage team is part of a larger team called ‘the Vibe Team’ that also looks after two other areas: office & facilities management and planning & designing. (You’ll hear more about Canva in my podcast soon)
In the future, we’ll see how food teams will spread even more, also outside of tech companies, and will be made of food and hospitality industry professionals who no traditional corporate background. Moreover, if, until now, some HR or marketing/events teams were also in charge of food&beverage, this decade will see that food teams will be fully independent.
GO DEEPER: Learn more about the role of Airbnb’s global food team and its strategy in episode 01 of The Nourishing Workplace with Airbnb’s Global Food Strategy Manager McKenzie Phelan.
4. Food culture will be a bigger conversation than ROI
Approaching corporate eating with a physical, biomedical model means that, in a way, it’s easy to measure the ROI. Want to see if your employees are healthier since changing the composition of their meals at work? Easy. Ask them to wear a health-tracking wristband or do a blood test to track changes.
However, when you approach eating more holistically, meaning that you think strategically about eating spaces and integrate core values into menu design or procurement, you realize that food culture is a bigger conversation than ROI.
Improvements are visible and tangible, but might not be a number on a screen. How do you measure the return of a positive ambiance or a delicious meal? Food-first companies report higher attraction and retention and a stronger employer brand and reputation.
5. We’ll embrace eating alone with pride
The common consensus is that eating at work is strongly intertwined with eating together. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a strong advocate of communal eating too. Many studies show that desktop dining is a widespread plague. And you want to contain it as much as you can.
However, as companies are becoming better at eating together, you realize that communal eating is one side of the picture, or as the familiar adage in the trend world goes, “a trend always brings a countertrend”.
If the focus in the last decade was on eating together––hence the surge of supper clubs, for example–– now we’ll be seeing the rise of solo mindful and meaningful experiences.
I had some anticipation of this trend when I analyzed the results of a 2018 survey I’ve conducted with clients and readers, albeit a small group, about eating at work. Many people said that they’d like their lunch to be a peaceful moment––possibly by themselves.
Are you surprised? I’m not. We’re talking about knowledge workers who are on all-day-long––emails, messages, and phone calls on several devices––often working in noisy open-plan offices.
Two possible solutions that organizations can look into––after fixing noise issues in offices:
- Providing a calm, peaceful eating ambiance
- Fixing policies so that eating alone is regarded with respect instead of shame.
GO DEEPER: Learn more about designing human eating spaces that cater to both the need of the community and the individual in episode 04 of The Nourishing Workplace with Knoll’s Transformation Leader, Jenny West
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Want to get the full picture and go in-depth with the key trends that will be impacting office food culture and your organization in 2020 and beyond?
Visit my Speaking Page to learn more about my trend talks, either delivered in-person or online, to future-proof your organization, catering and meal-delivery company, or food product company.