Workplace Catering: How to Attract and Retain Customers


Workplace caterers face increasing competition from external retailers. Sandwich shops, coffee shops and fast food outlets are all seeking to take a piece of the lunchtime pie. When those who bring in their own packed lunches are added to the picture, it’s easy to see how workplace caterers must work hard to retain existing customers and attract new ones.

The Customer Is Always Right

It is important to recognise that different individuals want different things from their meals. Some are after convenience. Others value health and nutrition, while a third group may simply want a tasty and filling meal. Of course, there are also those who are vegetarian or vegan, who eat halal or kosher food or who have specific dietary requirements because, for example, they cannot tolerate gluten. It is the job of the workplace caterer to appeal to all these groups. This inevitably means that serving a single meal, or even two choices, will not suffice.

Feedback from the users or potential users of workplace canteens and restaurants bears this out. A high proportion want a greater variety of meals and snacks, and almost as many seek meals that have an improved nutritional balance. Significant numbers are concerned about allergens and the use of sustainable ingredients. Additionally, some suggested that longer opening hours and a better ambience would encourage them to make greater use of their workplace canteen.

Giving the Customers What They Want

The feedback gives workplace caterers plenty to go on. The first consideration will be devising expanded and more nutritional menus; a report prepared for the Food Standards Agency contains useful guidance for public institutions on this topic.

There are also practical considerations. More potential customers and longer opening hours may necessitate changes to kitchens and kitchen equipment. It is no good, for example, having a single dishwasher attempting to service the dishwashing requirements generated by a lunchtime sitting that may extend over several hours and serve large numbers of people. In such instances, commercial dishwashers, provided by the likes of, are essential. Similar adjustments will need to be made for ovens, hobs, sinks and work preparation surfaces. Kitchen staff numbers may also need to rise.

Caterers who can address these issues successfully ought to be rewarded by seeing an increase to their customer numbers and a consequent rise in profits.

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