Mitie Catering Services features on BBC1's Inside Out programme tomorrow (9 February). The contract caterer has designed a new bespoke City Living programme to help City workers maintain a balanced healthy diet. Managing director Anthony Bennett talks to Emily Manson
What made you decide to implement these City Living menus?
We wanted to make something specific for city dwellers who suffer from a lack of daylight, commuting, queuing, sitting down, long hours and boozy evenings, so we developed a nutritional programme rather than a diet.
What does the TV programme focus on?
We follow three people. One's concerned with stress, another is a trainee solicitor adapting to working life and dealing with a lack of energy, while the third is concerned with weight. They have one-to-one consultations with nutritionists and are issued with a menu and exercise plan for a month, although ideally it's a three-month process.
How practical are these schemes?
We start off with a lifestyle questionnaire and encourage customers to tell us their issues, be it stress, lack of energy or whatever. The candidates do seem to feel much better and we've seen weight loss and people feeling more energised, which is one of most powerful things about this. We can't change the way the average city worker conducts their life but we can try to support their lifestyle with a format and workable programme that they can build into their lives, rather than forcing changes which are impossible to keep.
What foods optimise worker activity?
It's about balance. Our programmes are all about front-loading the day - which means starting with a good breakfast. We offer things like city smoothies with ingredients like apricots, kiwis and bananas with yogurt, soy milk, linseed and sesame seeds. It's all about having foods that take longer to burn and release energy slowly. Other good breakfast dishes are muesli with a banana or porridge with honey and nuts, then toasted rye bread and scrambled eggs.
Is it really about eating little and often?
That's important, but it's also about foods which give long-lasting energy and avoiding sugars and caffeine which give a quick burst then leave you feeling tired. Mid-morning or afternoon snacks of fruit or muesli bars are good. Best lunches are typically anything from salad with protein to steamed fish with vegetables or couscous. We still offer bangers and mash and pasta, but it's what you add with it - wholemeal pasta is obviously better than white pasta.
What's your tip for caterers wanting to improve their food offering?
Get to know your customers and those who don't use your facility, their likes and dislikes. Give information about the food and keep it as fresh and seasonal as possible. Those three things alone will drive sales.