Operations

Foodservice solutions are evolving for the hybrid workplace

With a reduced workforce in office buildings, restaurants are stepping in as an alternative to the employee cafeteria.
grab and go food
Photo courtesy of Fooda

Most corporate offices had a “return-to-work” plan set to go into effect this month, but the delta variant of COVID-19 is delaying that return for many. Even when offices do reopen, it looks like hybrid models will grow in popularity, allowing employees to work remotely several days a week.

Restaurant aggregator Fooda developed a solution that can have potential benefits for employers and employees.

With fewer employees onsite, “companies will want to have robust food options without operating a full-fledged corporate cafeteria,” says Alex Groesbeck, president of Fooda.

Fooda partners with local, independent restaurants in 24 cities, which, in turn, set up pop-ups in office building lobbies and other centralized locations. To accommodate the changing office environment, Groesbeck and his team retooled Fooda during the pandemic, focusing on upgrading technology to allow companies to subsidize food at work through discounted meals with its restaurant partners. The goal—to incentivize workers to come into the office.

Fooda invested in a proprietary POS platform that not only allows office workers to place mobile orders in advance, it includes a QR code function that provides a discount given at the point of purchase. The employer subsidizes the discount, so a $10 burrito ends up costing the employee $7, for example.

“We made the tech seamless to encourage companies to make food options more compelling and affordable to employees,” says Groesbeck.

About half of Fooda’s existing restaurant partners have come back on board, with another 50% of new ones signing up in the last few months. The company also dusted off and invested in its delivery platform, an upgrade that is increasing bulk catering orders for restaurant partners. Meals are packed individually and some popups have realized $400 to $2,000 in incremental sales, Groesbeck says.

“We’re focusing on workplaces that have fluctuating workforces,” he said. “We can adjust the number of restaurant popups according to the number of people in the office on certain days and scale up if that number increases.”

During the pandemic, Fooda also grew its presence in healthcare, military bases and government offices, partnering with restaurants to set up pop-ups at those locales. “We always thought healthcare could be a big area of growth, and we are planning to expand in that segment,” says Groesbeck.

Everytable, a restaurant and meal subscription service in Los Angeles, has developed the Everytable SmartFridge to place in office buildings, corporate campuses and similar venues. It gives employees a flexible option to enjoy a selection of fresh, made-from-scratch meals on a daily basis.  

Everytable is also positioning its foodservice solution “as an exciting way to welcome back teams as companies transition from a WFH model back to being in the office.” To operate the user-friendly fridge, employees swipe their key card to unlock the door and take out the meal of their choice. Through RFID technology, the customer is charged for the item.

The SmartFridge is currently available only in Southern California, including Los Angeles, Orange County, Inland Empire and San Diego, and follows Everytable’s model of giving back to the community. When employees purchase their lunch from the SmartFridge, they can also buy a “pay it forward meal” for someone in need. “It’s a way to attract potential and current employees by encouraging a positive company culture and giving back to the community,” Everytable said in a statement.

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