Although agile working means fewer people in offices, it's not all bad newsfor caterers, says Sam Hurst, managing director of Grazing Catering
The digitalised workplace is biting at the heels of the traditional work environment and creating agile working spaces designed to fit around the employee, rather than the company. This naturally has an impact on
services such as catering. Fewer people in offices and smaller office footprints could impact the commercial viability of traditional catering service offers, where large on-site catering facilities and kitchens are installed in buildings.
This, coupled with increasingly expensive rental yields, mean the office space may look very different in years to come.
However, before the doom-mongers start predicting the end of the world, these developments do not mean that we will see the end of the traditional caterer. If the modern workplace places great emphasis on productivity, we know that wellbeing plays a crucial role in this. Wellbeing sits at the forefront of workplace strategy and companies are increasingly looking at how services, such as catering, can play a role in enhancing their working environment.
A key element within an effective workplace is collaboration, where companies devote considerable space and resource to collaborative areas, not least to those areas where teams can socialise, eat and drink together. This is now a real USP for employers and was demonstrated in the findings of the recent Stoddart Review, which highlighted the link between an effective workplace and business productivity.
Businesses want collaborative social spaces, and they know that food plays a central role in bringing people together.
However, many cannot justify traditional and fixed contract models given their agile working practices. So, for those companies who see the benefit of providing flexible collaborative workspaces, there is a great opportunity here for caterers with flexible service models. Flexibility can be achieved in lots of ways, whether it's through the term of contract or, more significantly, the style of food provision.
We've seen an increase in demand for our offsite production, on-site service model, where we are able to bring premium quality food to clients' offices without requiring them to devote large areas to expensive back-of-house kitchens and equipment.
There is no long-term commitment and clients can pick and choose when they want us. This model is becoming popular with many tech, media and IT industries. So much so, that Deliveroo recently launched a corporate division to do exactly that. This development has really made many companies consider their next move.
As caterers, we've often talked about the need to compete with the high street - well, now the high street is competing with us. The fast-changing office landscape has accelerated the need for flexibility - now we need to demonstrate our own agility.