The Revival of the Staff Canteen

An increasing number of company staff canteens nowadays are more than just a place where you can get a bite to eat in between meetings. They’re becoming places to take time out of your day, places of conscious enjoyment, of networking and communication.

Go back a few years and the staff canteen was a fading relic. A place where older employees went to read the newspaper during their lunch break that was at risk of getting left behind. Modern trends including working from home have put the canteen’s future into question and everyone was talking about the death of the office canteen. But we all missed the point - people instead just wanted a bit of variety!

Companies are putting food back at the heart of office life to attract and engage employees. Inspired by Silicon Valley tech giants Google, Spotify, and Dropbox who were pioneers in this regard, known for their free food and fancy chefs, traditional companies are increasingly using food to compete with the tech sector and draw in younger workers.

What workers want

A study of workplaces of more than 100 people has found that only 58% of companies in the UK have canteens for their employees, which is actually below the global average. When asked what is important during their lunch break, 32% of workers said cheap prices and value for money is critical when buying food from their workplace canteen. And nearly a quarter (24%) said that queuing time actively puts them off visiting the canteen at all.

This January, technology provider Omnico’s research found that two fifths of UK workers with a canteen (40%) say they would visit their workplace restaurant more often if the service was quicker. And 82% of UK employees would buy meals more often from their workplace canteen or restaurant if they could order ahead and pick up their meal from a dedicated service point.

Forward thinking companies could even develop their own apps to encourage employees to order from a daily menu that is sent to an in-house kitchen, ready to pick up from the canteen and tailor the food offering to what people want so there is less waste. Research has also shown that what employees really want is new food options in a more inviting space.

A sense of comfort

The uncomfortable long tables and benches that made staff canteens seem like food factories are rapidly becoming a thing of the past as well. Staff canteens are now part of the corporate identity where spaces create culture. And having an appealing company culture is paramount when it comes to becoming and remaining an attractive employer.

If companies want to keep their employees motivated and retain their loyalty over the long term, they also have to provide a working environment that reflects employees’ changing values. Eating together plays a central role in that, especially among members of the younger generation.

With cost-conscious employers keen to maximise the use of their canteen space, businesses are increasingly using the space for other purposes such as internal meetings, temporary workstations, or somewhere to take customers. Workspaces have become more influenced by a sense of comfort and making dining areas attractive and comfortable is also a priority.

Furniture for Social Spaces

Social Spaces, designed and manufactured in the UK by Dams, is a range of innovative, contemporary design-led products for corporate breakout spaces, reception areas, meeting rooms and dining areas. Social Spaces furniture can transform a dull office canteen into a modern, multi-functional, comfortable dining space which can also be used as a more stimulating working environment.

Upholstered soft seating, such as the Alban and Encore seating families, help to create relaxed working environments where people can go for some time away from their desk, meet and collaborate over a bite to eat or bring their laptop with them to work away from the distractions of phones and colleagues. Joss is a fully upholstered lounge chair which is adaptable to multiple environments and can also offer a relaxing and comfortable seating solution for employees during break times.

Bistro style chairs, such as Harmony and Pitch, feature contoured seats which are designed for maximum comfort and durability, making them ideal for dining areas and canteens, offering the ultimate combination of sleekness and sophistication. And dining tables are available with circular, square or rectangular tops in various sizes and customers can select from a wide range of base designs, edge finishes and laminate colours.

Staff canteens at the heart of the company

In the UK, the desk has been increasingly used as a dining table, but this is a trend that causes problems for employers and staff alike. While stress at work is often inevitable, it can be mitigated by taking a proper break. Without one, employees risk taking their stress home with them instead.

The convenience of workplace canteens can provide this environment for a break and a good meal. Staff canteens have always been gathering places, but in the modern, interconnected working world, that idea takes on new meaning – as well as a new importance. Informal meet-ups in a relaxed environment foster creative thinking, which helps employees generate new ideas or identify potential synergies.

This creates requirements for new staff canteens – not just in terms of food quality, but also as a division of space. This development has breathed new life into shared dining areas, as people have come to realise that, in the creative economy age, communication and interaction are crucial aspects of everyday working life. These new staff canteens are truly becoming the beating heart of the company!