What your employee canteen says about your company culture


The workspace is changing, and with London the hub of so many different businesses, few other cities showcase what tomorrow’s corporate cultures will look like. The evolution of the workspace has been gradual, but it has changed from one built for and moulded by the baby boomer generation to one that is looking to increasingly appeal to twenty and thirty something professionals. Different factors have influenced these changes which, in turn, are encouraging employers to have a fresh look at how they showcase their cultures.

Rising costs and fiercer competition for office space have pushed businesses to be creative and flexible in their use of space, whilst lower wage structures mean that employers are looking for different ways of adding value to employee benefits package. Moreover, the younger workforce is arguably more fickle in regards to company loyalty compared to their elders which means employers need to work harder to keep them. The term ‘nine to five’ is losing relevance whilst agile working conditions are increasingly becoming the norm. These changes highlight the evolution of the corporate setting and the need for companies to adapt to a changing employee mindset.

So how can a company change their internal “brand” and identity to appeal to evolving workforce demands? For aspiring talent looking for their next big job, variables outside of pay come into the decision-making process and from a tangible point of view; amenities such as the foodservice provision are playing a greater role in both recruitment and talent retention.

The shift in expectations for workspace eating has been clear and swift. It has meant greater choice, greater emphasis on nutrition, multipurpose work spaces which blur the boundary between café and meeting space. Eating at work is no longer simply a question of providing sustenance; what is on the menu is increasingly valuable to young professionals and should closely replicate the high street. The look and feel of shared spaces is equally as important. Employees are seeking different environments they can work in whilst employers can seldom afford to dedicate vast areas of prime building space only for it to be used 2 to 4 hours a day. Even the word “café” is replacing the archaic sounding term ‘canteen’. In city centres where individuals are exposed to a huge breadth of food choices, can employers really afford to offer bland, uninteresting food? Installing a catering operation is not cheap, so why do it at half measure?

The obvious example of a company that understands the value of amenities is Google. Employees have access to everything from massage rooms to nap pods and free food in their cafes and restaurants. The company receives millions of applications each year and its company perks are well known, even to those with little to no interest in ever applying for a role there. They must be doing something right.

Commercial Kitchen DesignersWhilst it may be at an extreme, for every Google there are hundreds if not thousands of companies whose culture is not adapting to today’s workforce, let alone tomorrows. It may not always be necessary (some companies have enough prestige that people will want to work there regardless of what the benefits and perks are or lack thereof). But for the companies who are not supporting their workforce beyond the expected basics – what does it say about them as an employer?

Amenities, including catering and the wider foodservice operation, can be viewed as an extension of the company’s identity. Whether directly or indirectly, they leave their mark on how individuals experience their company culture. Even though redeveloping the catering infrastructure can be a significant financial commitment, it is difficult to think of a better way of adding tangible value on a consistent basis to a workspace.

For businesses looking to attract and retain the very best, how you take care of your people away from their desks can say more than you think. The workforce of tomorrow is agile, versatile and flexible, and has different expectations of what an office experience ought to be like. Businesses who fail to understand the value of their amenities and what it says about their culture will inevitably find themselves misaligned with the expectations of tomorrow’s professionals.