I want to alert FM readers to a recent article in the online magazine slate.com by Slate editorial assistant Boer Deng, which declared right up front in the story deck: "American workers don't take enough breaks. That's why every company needs a cafeteria."
You go, girl!
Deng cites statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Society for Human Resource Management, NPD, the Towers Watson management consultancy and the IBISWorld market research firm, to make her case. She acknowledges the obstacles, especially the barrier of smaller employee populations, though that factor may be mitigated by the emergence and continued refinement of unmanned micro markets that bridge the gap between traditional vending and manual foodservice.
She doesn't mention micro markets but does note that shared cafeterias among several smaller firms are not uncommon. For example, about 10% of Sodexo's clients are multi tenant offices with a shared cafeteria, according to a company representative she talked to. I would assume the other major contract companies operating in B&I have similar ratios.
Other threats include the emergence of online ordering and delivery services like Seamless that can encourage competition from nearby commercial restaurants (and provide companies with a ready excuse for not investing in onsite dining facilities). The challenge for the onsite dining community, and especially the contract management companies dependent on the continuing viability of this market, to make the case for the benefits delivered by giving employees a place inside the company where they can relax, socialize, engage with each other.
This is something that many trendy high-tech firms like Google and Microsoft have realized. Now, the message has to seep through to other industries, and it helps that broad-market consumer media outlets like Slate are taking an interest in the issue. Be sure to check it out.