The UK is currently under lockdown with many offices remaining empty. The message received loud and clear is stay at home and work from home if you can. However, with three vaccines now approved for use in the UK and the aim for all over-50s and everyone who is at greater risk from COVID to be offered a vaccine by spring – there are glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel.

It’s likely restrictions will start easing during 2021 and people will return to their workplaces.  However, things will look different for some time – when previous lockdowns were eased it was gradual, not an immediate return to ‘normal’. We will have to adapt to a new normal once more and on-site corporate hospitality is going to have to be ready for when workers to return.

Throughout the pandemic, many on-site hospitality operations turned to technology to help them adjust to the ever-changing rules and guidelines. We believe it is innovative tech and digital solutions which will continue to help when the time comes – not only allowing the much needed growth of revenue from on-site hospitality but ensuring operations are running as safely as possible.

Assuming the need for social distancing and limiting contact with others is here to stay – what might change for workplace hospitality in particular?

We think Grab & Go will become more popular – individually pre-packaged items are hygienic and convenient. Customers can pay for their goods by scanning the barcode themselves, either at a self-service kiosk or via an app on their smartphone. This reduces contact with others as well as streamlining staff operating costs. In addition, it’s likely there will be at least a portion of employees and workplaces which will prefer to avoid crowded dining areas and take their lunch items outside or back to their desks to eat.

Health and wellness are also a key trend in 2021, driven by the pandemic and a renewed focus amongst consumers on maintaining their health much better than before. As a result we anticipate healthier food options to be in more demand – so salads, bento boxes and protein pots – which also lend themselves well to the Grab & Go set-up.

In addition, many workplaces that we have been speaking with are seeking to implement alternative ways of ordering food – to help reduce queuing, remove the use of cash on-site and help reduce large numbers of staff congregating in the same place, at the same time. There are lots of tech-driven ordering solutions and apps such as the mySYSTOPIA app – which allows users to pre-order their lunch items and pay online via one of the payment cards they have linked to their account.

Orders can be delivered straight to desks, at timed points within the dining area or pop-up collection points can be set up at various points throughout the office for cold items, reducing footfall in the canteen.  Loyalty points can also be earned via the app, helping to encourage repeat purchase and further increase revenue. 

We expect workplace hospitality will look different when things reopen, but believe that by embracing technology now it can become both profitable for businesses and remain safe for employees.

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