Changing It Up
Another throughline at these forward-thinking cafeterias is variety. “We’re trying to feed the same people five days a week,” says Morro, “so variety is significant.” Dan Wainfan, associate VP of health & wellness at Aramark, says that its B&I clients rotate in new restaurants to keep guests interested. David Boyle, an executive chef at Sodexo who oversees food services at BMS, says pop-ups are a great way to fight repetition and introduce employees to new menu items. In many company settings, on-site cafeterias are competing with local restaurants, so variety is not only necessary to keep employees satisfied, but to keep them on site, sharing ideas over lunch.
Food as experience that promotes guest engagement is another theme tying these programs together. Business cafeterias are continuing to move food prep out of the kitchen and into action stations, where chefs cook directly in front of guests, answering questions and furthering transparency. As an added bonus, “Guests are more patient when they see that the product is being prepared in front of them,” says John Higgins, national client executive at Sodexo and the account lead for BMS. When diners see high-quality ingredients being prepared firsthand, Higgins says they assign more value to their meal. Certainly, this is mimicking the broader foodservice industry, with more open kitchens in both casual and fast-casual restaurant settings.
While coffee shops are a ubiquitous way to bring employees together, some companies are taking the experiential element of food and drink to the next level by installing bars on site. A number of Aramark clients have bars that serve nitro beer, cocktails, and wines on tap, while others use mocktails or root beer floats to add an on-trend sociable element to foodservice offerings.
Asian dishes boast a clear presence at on-trend B&I cafeterias, where items from distinct countries offer diners variety within the cuisine. Korean influences abound, with Sodexo, Bon Appétit and AVI Foodsystems all recently merging Korean ingredients with Mexican preparations (as in Korean beef tacos, quesadillas and burritos).
Sodexo’s BMS account also has a permanent sushi station, and Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Café 303 in Pasadena, Calif., a CulinArt Group account, has recently menued Thai dishes such as a Thai Salmon Wrap and a Thai Beef Curry.
On-trend poke is also available at these B&I eateries, which signals a sea change throughout foodservice, where a marinated raw fish gets serious play now. BMS offers several poke dishes in addition to a build-your-own option, reflecting consumers’ demand for customization. Offerings have included the House Classic, which combines tuna and salmon with seaweed, scallions, sesame seeds, shoyu, tomatoes, cucumbers, radish, avocado and tobiko, as well as a wasabi cream dressing.
Bon Appétit client Adobe in San Jose, Calif., menus a poke sushi “burrito” featuring sushi rice in a seaweed wrap, showcasing a fun, approachable play on the trending dish.
B&I chefs are also dedicating menu space to Indian cuisine. Adobe, which averages 2,000 daily lunch transactions at its San Jose, Calif., headquarters, has invested in a tandoor oven to feature authentic offerings like Rogan Josh, combining goat meat with fennel and ginger in tomato sauce, and Aloo Bhindi Masal, with potato and okra in bhindi masala gravy.
Pasquale LaRocca, director of strategic marketing and branding at AVI Foodsystems, whose B&I clients include Amazon, FedEx and Progressive Insurance, says his clients are increasingly offering Indian-style burritos, customized turkey or tofu keema, and Indian-style vegetables in roti flatbread.