Top 5 workplace food trends for 2019

What are the top workplace food trends for 2019? And what opportunities and challenges is the food industry facing? The ISS Head of Catering Excellence, Chris Towler, covers trends such as balanced plant forward menus, the war for talent and sustainability in food services in this article.

1. Balanced plant forward menus

A rising global trend is balanced plant-based eating. In workplace catering 'balanced plant forward menus' are gaining traction.

‘Plant-Forward’ is a style of cooking and eating that emphasizes and celebrates choice, but is not limited to, plant based foods—including fruits and vegetables (produce); whole grains; beans, other legumes (pulses), and soy foods; nuts and seeds; plant oils; and herbs and spices—and that reflects evidence-based principles of health and sustainability. 

The way we create and eat food leads to an enormous amount of waste. The way animals are farmed and the carbon dioxide it produces has a major impact on our health and environmental sustainability.

Research backs this up. The situation is becoming urgent and as a global organisation, we are doing something about it.

We are addressing it by encouraging our chefs to cook using less animal protein and educating our customers on the reasons behind our menu changes.

We are not asking everyone to become vegetarians; we are encouraging people to sensibly reduce the amount of animal protein they use.

2. Sustainability in Food Services

Another growing trend in workplace catering is the importance of sustainability in food services. At ISS we are very conscious of how we manage our supply chain including sourcing local produce when possible and not having it flown in from abroad.

We have increased the volume of orders, so rather than drivers making daily deliveries to our sites, we have them every other day, weekly or even monthly.

We used to receive our fruit and vegetables in cardboard boxes but now they are delivered in plastic crates that are reused by our suppliers. We have a huge commitment in countries around the world with local farmers to buy "imperfect delicious produce" or "wonky vegetables" because 40% of food grown does not get consumed.

We are ‘repurposing food’ to tackle waste too. Our chefs today must really be creative using different parts of vegetables and fruits that once were considered as immediate waste.  

We measure kitchen food waste and share the data with customers. By doing so, we have noticed that our customers have become conscious of putting less food on their plate. One of our clients reduced food waste by 30 per cent with this approach. We also have a huge focus on the reduction of single use plastics. We have introduced an audit that identifies the offending items and recommends a sustainable substitute. Another hot topic and focus for ISS is to encourage our customers to hydrate more and use refillable bottles for their water consumption.

3. Health & Wellbeing in the workplace

Another key trend for 2019 that is so important to our global key account customers is the health and well-being of employees.

Under our health and wellbeing human performance framework, we have three pillars: live well and move more; eat right; and go green.

'Live well and move more' is about creating healthier menus. We also use food to encourage exercise so where there is a gym in a building with our restaurant we will design menus for specific workout regimes and that is really impactful for customers as they feel their needs are being catered for. 'Eat right' is about providing information about what is in the food and encouraging people to pick a healthier option by making it more prominent. 'Go Green' is about reducing our environmental footprint.

4. Talent Attraction and Retention

Attracting, developing and retaining talent in the industry is an ongoing issue. There is a chronic chef shortage in our industry and in many of the 31 countries where we provide catering. There is a lack of people entering the industry and that is creating a huge skills gap.

But ISS has affiliations with culinary and catering colleges around the world. We encourage students to come in and work in our kitchens so they can see what it is truly like. Our aim is to ensure that when they leave, they have a positive message about our people and values, so that when they enter the jobs market, they want to come back because they see us as an employer of choice.

5. Technology

Lastly, we have a unique eye on how technology trends are impacting our industry. We use technology to inform customers of menus, promotions, calorie information and allergens, before they even get to the restaurant – we want to make their busy lives easier. We also reward healthy eating through specific loyalty programmes.

Technology is helping us with labour shortages. In large operations we use automated dishwashers that can separate metallic cutlery from the china. We also offer robotic vending that can produce very good quality hot and cold snacks.

Overall, we want consumers to be aware of all these trends, so they can help us make a difference.

ChrisTowler_Portrait_004About Chris Towler

Chris Towler, Head of Catering Excellence at ISS.

Chris has been in the food business for 42 years. He started as a chef and moved into management.

He heads up catering excellence for ISS's key account customers.