What’s Really Stopping People Using Their Staff Canteen?

Workplace catering can be provided in a number of ways, via in-house catering teams, contract caterers operating as workplace caterers or through facilities management teams, and we were keen to shed light on exactly how and why staff canteens are losing customers’ money to external food choices like nearby cafes. So here’s what we found out and what you can do about it:

Our research results: What would make you more likely to use a staff canteen?

Overall, most people across all age groups want a greater variety of meals from their staff canteen, with higher nutritional value coming in a strong second place.

Here’s more details on what we found in our research[1]:




Research results: what does each age group really want from their staff canteen?

Although an increased variety of meals was the main reason overall that would encourage people to use their staff canteen more, let’s find out what else mattered to each age group:

As we can see, for the older working age group, 55-64, an increased variety of meals is by far the most important factor, with nutritional value coming a close second. Ambience and clear allergen information seem to be of least concern compared to other reasons.

Again, for 45-54 year old workers, an increased variety of meals is still top, with the nutritional values also coming second. However, this age group are clearly more concerned about ambience than sustainable ingredients, which the 55-64 age group rated higher.

The 35-44 age groups similarly rate the variety and nutritional value of meals highest when deciding to use their staff canteen. They’re also more than doubly concerned with a nice ambience than the 55-64s!

The 25-34s have the same top two concerns as older workers, but we’re starting to see a significant increase in how important clear allergen information is to them. Could this be the age group which saw a big increase in food allergies as children?

Surprisingly, the 18-24s are the least concerned about the use of sustainable ingredients than any other age group – a little worrying for the planet! However, clear allergen information ranks equally highly with the 25-34s, so the younger generations are definitely more allergy-aware than older workers. This can be clearly correlated with the rise of food allergies in the last 20 years.

Research results: do men and women want different things from their staff canteen?

Pop-psychology theories aside, is there a real difference in the reasons that would encourage men and women to their staff canteen (or not)?

As we can see, there isn’t much of a gender difference in reasons for using the staff canteen – and certainly not as dramatic as the differences between age groups. However, women are slightly more encouraged by a better display of nutritional information, and more nutritious meals. Men are more concerned about sustainable ingredients than women.

What does this mean for caterers?

The crux is that increased usage of the staff canteen (and better business for you as a caterer!) depends on the age and gender makeup of your workforce, since different reasons hold varying weight within each group.

However, what is absolutely clear from our research is that staff across all age groups and genders rate the choice of meals as the top reason they’d use their staff canteen more, followed closely by meals higher in nutritional value. There was no clear third place: a nice ambience appears a slightly stronger reason but this is not always consistent across age groups.

Usage of the staff canteen will also depend on environmental factors that may be out of the caterers’ control, such as:

  • the location of the work premises
  • availability of other food options in the vicinity
  • working hours and length of lunch breaks, and
  • value for money (which may be determined by contract terms).

However, there is of course plenty you can do outside of these factors to improve your canteen’s business results?

What can you do to improve patronage for your staff canteen?

As we’ve discussed, this could depend on the demographic you’re catering for, but the top way – according to our survey – is to increase the variety of meals you’re offering, and make them healthier choices.

How can you provide a greater variety of meals which are also healthy?

As you may expect, this can be a tall order to manage manually. And, this is why Saffron can help – our modular suite of software designed specifically for the catering and hospitality industry. Here’s what you can do with it to improve take-up of your staff canteen:

Build a more varied menu Increase the nutritional value of your meals
Upload your stock (ingredients) inventory and suppliers’ catalogues into the Saffron database Automatically-calculated nutritional analysis provided at ingredient, recipe and menu level
Use the Recipe and Menu module to build and store a range of fully costed meals from your ingredients Use pre-loaded nutritional guidelines – or set your own – and benchmark each of your recipes against them, ensuring your food has the nutritional profile you want
Make easy tweaks to ingredients to update recipes Easily switch ingredients to make a healthier recipe: nutritional analysis will automatically be recalculated
Easily substitute ingredients to create dishes for special diets, such as food allergies or vegan Produced a healthy meal’ Well done, now you can use Saffron’s nutritional analysis to facilitate your nutritional labelling, or even provide it via our customer-facing portal

To see more about how this works in practice, watch our videos on menu and recipe planning here:

And nutritional analysis here:

We’ve produced lots of advice on menu building and nutrition – have a read here:

Curious to find out how software is helping many of your competitors to improve profitability in their staff canteens’ Give us a call on +44 (0)114 281 6060 or contact us.

[1] Methodology: Conducted by Google Surveys, December 12 2016 – December 14 December. 511 responses, general population filter by age groups 18 up to 64.

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