Wells Fargo runs a total of 45 cafés plus micro markets and other food venues on 24 campuses across the U.S. What happens when the vast majority of the employees who normally eat at them aren’t on campus anymore?
For Wells Fargo, the coronavirus pandemic has been a time to retrofit and reimagine their food systems and to examine new options for the future, says Kimberly Bertz, head of workplace services and experience. But first, they needed to make sure that the in-person foodservice experience was safe.
“The mantra that we’ve had, the principle that we followed from the very beginning across Wells Fargo for all of our COVID response and recovery work, is ‘employee safety first,’” she says.
They changed the format of their cafés, removing shared foodservice stations such as salad bars. They also implemented social distancing, enhanced their cleaning protocols, and moved to single-serve meals and individually packaged items, such as napkins and straws.
Once safety measures were in place, they provided in-person employees of both Wells Fargo and employees of their service vendors with free meals throughout 2020. During the program, they supplied employees with 2.3 million free meals. Because it was “a highly uncertain time for everybody,” Bertz says, they also ensured their vendors that there would be no changes to their jobs or staffing.
When it’s not a pandemic, Wells Fargo serves about 25,000 employee meals every day. Since 200,000 of Wells Fargo’s 265,000 employees are working remotely, that number has dropped to between 7,000 and 8,500 meals per day.
Thirty-five cafés have remained open. Wells Fargo partners with Compass Group and Sodexo, whose employees execute all food operations. The vendors created a rotating menu of grab-and-go offerings, mainly salads and sandwiches.
One café offers burgers (quarter-pounder, chicken or veggie) or grilled chicken sandwiches with sides such as sweet potato fries, tater tots or french fries. A build-your-own venue allows employees to choose a protein (fried tofu, grilled chicken or sautéed shrimp), seasonal vegetables, housemade dressing and an array of toppings. Many venues offer pre-packaged options, all made in-house. Bertz says the vendors have also held days dedicated to pizza, pasta or tacos to mix it up for the employees.
“[Our vendors] made it creative and fun and the employees absolutely love it,” Bertz says. “We’re taking care of our essential workers in the office and they feel it through the food.”
Wells Fargo also partnered with affiliate organizations across the country to provide meals to people who needed them most. “Food insecurity was becoming an increasingly visible topic,” Bertz says, “so we took that opportunity to donate meals into the communities. It just made sense to use our resources to help.”
They donated 230,000 meals through 15 affiliate organizations in nine states. Almost half of those sites are food banks and hunger relief organizations associated with one of their most significant partners, Feeding America. Foodservice employees prepared, boxed and delivered meals identical to those served in Wells Fargo cafés. Compass Group also coordinated donations to the effort from some of its suppliers.
Turning their attention to internal infrastructure, Wells Fargo came up with an innovative use for kitchen space that would otherwise be sitting idle. Since one of their foodservice suppliers needed a commissary kitchen to prepare food for other customers—and the company is in the unusual position of having full kitchens at each of its cafés—they decided to contract with them on a per-meal basis.
The arrangement, which takes place at three of their locations, “allows the supplier to flex volume based on their other clients’ demand.” It has stretched their thinking about the use of their kitchens. They may continue the program past the pandemic, and possibly expand it.
As the company starts to slowly ease restrictions and bring more employees back in 2021, Wells Fargo is looking at the best steps to ensure employee safety, such as safe ways to open up limited café seating. They’re also considering ways to localize employees’ food experiences through in-office kiosks or food delivery to multiple floors.
Prior to the pandemic, Wells Fargo did not offer meal delivery. But in 2020 they created a delivery program to allow those who work in buildings with 50 or more onsite employees to have meals dropped. It’s been a big success.
They’d like to expand meal delivery through a mobile app to give employees a touchless ordering option and increased ability to control their own foodservice experiences. “From a future perspective,” Bertz says, “we think that’s something employees are really going to like.”