Employers are facing a variety of decisions managing in a post-pandemic era: how to keep workers safe, how to manage a remote or hybrid workforce, and last but not least, how to feed them.
ISS Guckenheimer, a corporate dining food service management company with more than 4,000 clients across the U.S., has designed a solution meant to address workplaces across the spectrum. Through its newly rolled out program called Flexible Food Solutions, the company offers platforms that can be mixed or matched according to an employer’s specific needs.
The program comprises four different solutions:
• At Home—designed for remote staff, it promotes engagement through virtual cooking demos, winemaker dinners, children’s education and seasonal gift boxes;
• Market—a modular solution, it creates food areas where a full café may not be practical;
• Beyond—a food delivery system that provides meals to alternative delivery points, such as popups and pickup stations, to optimize safety and experience; and
• Shift—a solution for manufacturing, data centers, call centers and other non-office environments, providing multiple meal periods around the clock.
“This came out of the shift we were seeing in clients’ operations and the need to provide hybrid working models and flexibility in a rapidly changing environment,” says Amelia Ekus, an account manager at ISS Guckenheimer.
At Home, a virtual approach, is designed to bring remote team members together through Zoom or Teams events. “We wanted to create an environment that mimics the reason companies have cafes in offices. It creates a community, brings people together, creates engagement and makes employees feel appreciated,” Ekus says. Virtual cooking classes and winemaker classes and food gift box deliveries on special occasions and holidays are elements of the program. Sometimes employees receive grocery lists for the classes, while other times the ingredients are shipped to them.
Market offers customized ways to provide fresh food in a facility where a full café isn’t the right fit or the client wants to decentralize operations. Options include features like a coffee bar, hot and cold food stations, ambient cases with grab-and-go meals and autonomous or robotic elements, such as a smoothie or salad robot.
The idea for Beyond originated during COVID, when clients were seeking ways to serve food beyond the café space; that mindset has endured and is central to many retrofits and new construction plans, Ekus says. Beyond delivers food to where the demand is, making use of a mobile-ordering system to direct orders within the organization instead of requiring employees to visit a central café. former cafes, conference and meeting rooms, even locker-like structures that operate similar to Amazon’s. Mobile carts help turn spaces like conference and meeting rooms into service points; they can also be called into service for surprise popups or in special events.
“It’s a highly personalized solution, one that can be adapted to each client as needed,” Ekus says. “Basically, it’s choose your own adventure.”
The idea for Shift surfaced from a gap in the marketplace that existed prior to COVID—a better way to feed shift workers with minimal time for dining. Instead of the purely grab-and-go model typical of 24/7 workplaces, ISS Guckenheimer looked at ways to provide a more personalized, but still speedy, guest experience. “It’s really about providing options by making sure the prep is optimized as much as possible,” Ekus explains. “In the past, if you only had a five or 10-minute break, you might be forced to eat a prepackaged salad complete with all the ingredients and the dressing.” Now, employees might be able to pick and choose the components of the salad, fast-casual style.
Before COVID, operators tended to consider spaces when determining what concepts or style of service made the most sense. “Now, we are looking at things from the guest experience perspective, and saying this is how we can achieve it,” Ekus says.
Aside from decentralized operations, engagement, in fact, is one of the key aims of Flexible Food Solutions. “A lot of our clients have had exciting and fun food programs,” Ekus says. “That will continue, but the core is about bringing people together through food.”