With offices either shut down or operating with radically reduced onsite staff, companies that operate corporate dining programs are being hard-pressed to generate business. American Dining Creations/American Food & Vending (ADC/AFV), an FM Top 50 firm based in Upstate New York near Syracuse, has developed one partial solution by offering companies a gift box program they can use to show appreciation to employees at a time when traditional office holiday parties are very likely not happening due to the coronavirus’s pandemic’s restrictions.
Employee Connect Boxes are attractively packaged collections of gourmet food, beverage and associated products that companies can give their staff in a safe manner. The products come from a variety of sources ranging from premium popcorn roasters and Amish farmers to mega-firms like Starbucks. They are assembled by ADC/AFV staff and come in various sizes, product mixes and price points to generate the widest possible appeal, says Nick Salvagni, vice president of marketing for ADC/AFV.
“We just did it to say, ‘Hey we know no one’s the same way this year when it comes to holiday catering or office parties,” he explains. “We have clients with people working mostly at home who wonder, ‘How do we keep people connected, especially during the holidays,’ and this presented as a possible solution.”
The program began as a kind of one-off with a single client looking for that something extra for the holidays, but word began to spread and Salvagni says the company found itself receiving inquiries.
“Our first order was just south of 4,000 boxes and we thought, ‘This is great but maybe it’s just a fluke,’ but then another client came to us and said, ‘We normally give our employees a turkey for Thanksgiving, but now a turkey may not make sense—we heard about your [Employee Connect Boxes] and we were wondering what you might have.’”
Credit: American Dining Creations/American Food & Vending
Several other inquiries followed, to the point that when Food Management spoke with Salvagni in early November, the company had potential orders for up to 10,000 boxes in addition to the 4,000 contracted for by the initial client.
Salvagni concedes not all of those orders may ultimately happening but the response, given that the program wasn’t even actively promoted yet, was more than encouraging.
The Employee Connect Box program is now being made part of ADC/AFV’s pitch to prospective clients and it potentially also can be something offered independently to companies looking for a one-time employee appreciation gesture, Salvagni says, adding that the boxes may also become part of ADC/AFV’s LTO program as a retail concept in which employers, departments and even individuals can purchase the boxes to give as gifts.
The boxes themselves currently come in a variety of packages, such as the Starbucks Joe on the Go package that includes a travel cup, biscotti and various coffees and teas. There is a Gourmet Popcorn package with products from a premium Iowa-based popcorn roaster, and a Farm Fresh Box featuring jams, jellies and biscuits sourced from an Amish farm.
“What we wanted to do is get [the components] from the places that do it the best, like popcorn from Iowa, while also offering something unique that someone’s not just going to go down the street and buy for themselves,” Salvagni says.