With the office party now an embarrassing memory and a fortnight's consumption of too-much-of-everything making workers feel sluggish, it's no wonder that contract caterers are making themselves popular with employers by helping to get their staff back into peak condition.
Among the health-busters is independent caterer Vacherin, which has launched its Eat Well healthy eating campaign for January across all 25 London sites. Director of food Lloyd Mann piloted the scheme last year and, in response to the positive feedback, he has now devised a two-week programme of menus using fresh, seasonal ingredients.
"We wanted to make it easier for people to eat healthily after the indulgent festive period," he explains.
The whole Eat Well package ranges from £6.50 for the day, depending on the site, and comprises a healthy breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch - including as many green vegetables as a customer can eat - and afternoon snack, as well as recipes for a balanced dinner at home. It also includes information and advice on healthy eating and a calorie-count and content breakdown.
Mann says that the campaign aims to capture a market that might otherwise abandon the staff restaurant during their January purge - particularly in those contracts with a younger clientele where lunch is the main meal.
"We expect over 50% of our hot meal sales to be the Eat Well option," he adds.
Independent caterer Bartlett Mitchell is going one step further and offering detox menus. Its year-round DARE - delicious and responsible eating - campaign provides a different healthy eating topic each month, and January is detox month. To this end, customers are given information sheets on how to detox throughout the day using a combination of vitamins, health drinks and dishes that have been specially devised by dietitian Theresa Dougherty.
These include Chow for Now Pots, starting at £2.50, whereby chefs simply add a steaming broth to a pot of vegetables and noodles or pulses. One of its newest, best-selling snacks are Raw Bars, from £1.25 - vegetable sticks offered with a choice of dips. Another popular snack is the Grazing Pax, a mix of nuts and dried fruit that give a healthier sugar rush than chocolate.
"Detox has a bland, hard-work reputation and customers love it when you take the work out of it," says creative director David James. "We market our menus to be a high-end everyday product. People want to know they are getting best value so provenance of ingredients and organic and red tractor labelling feature high on the marketing."
While January is a great time to draw attention to healthy eating, many contract caterers have healthy menus year-round. As Caroline Fry, managing director of CH&Co, says: "Potentially we can feed any single customer up to 250 meals a year, so that's a big responsibility."
The company has boosted its healthy eating profile by bringing nutritionist Amanda Ursell on board. She advised offering fruit or mixed nuts as snacks to help workers maintain steady blood sugar levels, they now also serve reduced sugar baked beans and use herbs and spices rather than salt.
But Fry cautions that customers don't want a nanny state. "When we recently made the decision to replace all our full-fat milk in our restaurants with 1% fat milk several of our clients objected. It was a good lesson for us. Give people a choice."
how to keep the workforce healthy
â- Provide advice on healthy eating and offer calorie content
â- It's not all about food - offer health drinks, too
â- Don't be afraid to serve raw vegetables - they retain vitamins and will be picked up as a healthy snack
â- Market the provenance of your ingredients
â- Offer fruits and nuts as snacks rather than chocolates and sweets
â- Make sure you provide choice. Nobody wants to be healthy all the time
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