Professional Comment

Delivering Consistent Catering in the Changing Workplace

By Cecily Batten, Head of Innovation at Selecta (

The workplace is changing. In addition to the demand for more flexible working arrangements, the global coronavirus pandemic has transformed traditional working habits. New operational protocols, socially distanced workplaces and staggered shifts are among the ‘new normal’.

However, for businesses, it isn’t as simple as just adhering to new rules.To attract and retain the brightest talent, they must consider how these regulations will impact the very fab- rics of workplace culture, like catering.


The traditional workplace nine-to-five is fast becoming a thing of the past.Those able to work from home are pushing for more remote opportunities and even in the workplace, flexible shift patterns are more attractive to those looking to work around their personal schedule.

Now, in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic, businesses are navigating further changes.As the hospitality sector continues to re- open its doors following multiple lockdowns, businesses are adapting to new regulations including social distancing and even staggered shift patterns.

However, with over half of employees claiming culture beats salary when choosing a role, businesses must still be able to deliver the rewarding and social workplace environment employees demand.


Workplace catering represents more than just a place to eat lunch. First and foremost, it’s an employee perk – offering nutritious and attractive food options conveniently on-site. It’s also a social space for colleagues to catch-up away from their work responsibilities.

Adapting catering offerings means accommodating those working unusual hours and finding new ways to create a welcoming and sociable atmosphere despite the current pandemic challenges.

Successful businesses will not only make the workplace more attractive for staff but also demonstrate appreciation and contribute to a collaborative and mutually rewarding workplace identity.


The current pandemic poses further new challenges when it comes to workplace catering. In addition to social distancing regulations and their impact on employee relationships, there is also the risk of employees becoming cautious of catering hygiene in the post-COVID world.

Businesses must be able to navigate these challenges to keep employees engaged.Those looking to limit health and safety concerns may con- sider offering COVID-compliant catering facilities like distance and touch-free machines, while all businesses should look to maintain a sense of identity and culture while social distancing measures are in place.

This may include making physical provisions in canteens to facilitate social distancing, so employees can enjoy break times together without staggering shifts or compromising safety.

Similarly, introducing special catering events – like ‘fresh food Fridays’ – or offering free food tokens to all employees each month helps establish a workplace identity and encourages staff to eat on-site.


While this all represents a new challenge for some businesses, other industries, including logistics, manufacturing and even some hospitality sectors. have long accommodated 24/7 shift schedules. So, what can we learn from these experienced industries and where can we improve?

Businesses must be prepared to deliver a catering service that is accessible to – and meets the needs of – everyone.While it may not be reasonable to offer a fully operated kitchen service at all hours of the day, this should be supplemented with fresh hot and cold food options available around the clock, in a way that is convenient to access.

Selecta research shows businesses which offer 24/7 catering options, like self-service micromarkets, see a 50 percent increase in uptake com- pared with those offering just traditional breakfast and lunch options. This includes a second ‘lunchtime peak’ around 2AM, when those running the reception desk throughout the night, for example, take their mid-shift break.

Without this accessible catering, not only do businesses risk leaving unusual hours workers feeling undervalued compared with day-time col- leagues but they also encourage staff to leave the premises to access food elsewhere.

The impact is widespread, affecting employee relationships and potentially suppressing productivity, with employees ending up buying convenient but unhealthy snacks.