With so many clients keeping their employees working remotely, corporate dining programs have had a rough go generating business through their traditional café and onsite catering operations. Guckenheimer, a California-based subsidiary of international contract services firm ISS Worldwide that specializes in providing dining services to high-end businesses, has faced that challenge by experimenting with a variety of strategies to extend its services to meet the work-from-home environment embraced at least temporarily by its customers.
One particular program involves delivery and drop off of food/beverage packs to client employees working remotely. The program started before the holidays last year but hit its stride by supporting December team-building virtual activities, says Bill Billenstein, senior director of food excellence for the Americas Region of ISS Facility Services Inc., of which Guckenheimer is a unit. “The team building and supporting office culture at home has been a great first step for us with this,” he notes.
The holiday version of the delivery program provided packages of high-end delicacies such as ale-and-charcuterie, wine-and-cheese and wine-and-chocolate pairings that teams working at home could sign up for and then enjoy together during a virtual holiday get-together. The packs incorporated client company logos and graphics and could also include add-ons like T-shirts and hats. Guckenheimer even had sommeliers and chefs join the team calls to talk about the products in the gift packs.
“It’s a way to keep that connection with the office,” Billenstein observes, noting that this sort of virtual team-building is important both for new employees who were brought on board during the remote-work period and haven’t had a chance to integrate into the company culture, and also for those who had previously worked together in an office but found themselves isolated.
While the holiday packs were a big success, the program is more than a seasonal initiative, and Billenstein says plans call for extending it into the coming months.
Photo: Holiday meal and gift packs delivered to remote-working employees of clients were a big success for Guckenheimer, helping isolated teams bond in a virtual work environment.
Holiday meal and gift packs delivered to remote-working employees of clients were a big success for Guckenheimer, helping isolated teams bond in a virtual work environment.“As we move through the year, we’ll adapt it to things like spring tasting menus and flavors of spring kits and also a wellness focus,” he says, noting that wellness—providing an alternative to standard takeout and convenience options like fast food sandwiches and frozen pizza—was an initial goal of the program before the holiday gift packs took precedence. “We’re a very whole-person type of diet focused company and so are our client partners,” he stresses.
It’s just part of Guckenheimer’s adaptation to the realities of a work environment in which staff is not expected to return en masse and full time to offices. Rather, Billenstein says he sees an emerging work culture where employees split time between working from home and going into the office for specific collaborative activities. Once there, teams will likely be isolated to curtail potential contagion spread in case of another outbreak such as COVID-19 occurs.
That in turn means communal mass gathering places like traditional cafeterias may be supplanted either by more, smaller dining spaces where individual groups can gather, or by order/delivery services that accommodate specific groups within their areas.
“I see team collaboration and ideation spaces where we can do personalized table service or even desk delivery or zone delivery to them from a central kitchen,” Billenstein explains. “We’re already seeing some of this in big office buildings where if you work on Floor 4, for instance, you have to stay on Floor 4 because we don’t want you travelling around the building.”