With majority of the Indian workforce spending most of their days at the office, an office meal is a competitive benefit. Additionally, with unhealthy lifestyles becoming more common and the feasibility of the homemade dabba system on the decline, employers are also recognising the need to have healthy food at work.
Especially to keep the millennial employee engaged, many companies are now hiring catering teams to plan daily menus, and are trying to get creative by also investing in onsite kitchens with various customised dietary options like keto, diabetic-friendly and therapeutic diets curated by professional chefs.
“It’s not only about providing food, but also a healthy and customised menu to ensure that employees are happy with that,” says Sanjay Kumar, CEO, Elior India — a subsidiary of the French catering giant. He adds that companies also want to ensure their workers’ health and efficiency. “Productivity boils down to how healthy the employee is. Companies respect the employee by ensuring that they are serving healthy food,” he explains.
Among the companies feeding their employees healthy meals are Google, LinkedIn, Airbnb and even Godrej. “We have always been progressive in terms of employee-friendly initiatives and we, as a company, understand that food is an essential aspect of keeping the workforce motivated. Health is a highly important aspect for any employee,” says Parmesh Shahani, Head, Godrej Culture Lab.
Chef David Edward Raj, a chef at Godrej among a few other companies, explains that every company is different and menus are decided as per the age group. One needs to break down the monotony while keeping diet options in mind. “Millennials these days are on the keto diet and there are employees who want sugar-free menus, so it’s important to ensure that employees don’t go out for their food,” says the chef.
In efforts to offer meal options, office food plans include small plates and large spreads of Indian and international cuisines. “There is awareness among people about healthy food, and corporates are going beyond their ways to provide options that work well for their employees,” says Dr Richa Anand, Executive Dietician at L.H Hiranandani hospital, and adds that it is a good move towards employee satisfaction. “It mostly works for the companies; they just need to ensure is the right portion of nutrition,” she warns.
Lite Bite Foods, a company that caters to corporates, prepares at least one major meal of the day and ensures that the menu offerings are an extension of their customers’ home kitchen. “It comes with the responsibility of employee’s health. Eating food that is designed as per the lifestyle of the employees’ age, activity level and their body types is trending today,” says Vineet Manocha, Senior Vice President at the company.
Earlier, people would choose a workplace based on employee retention rates and global economic ratings, but analysts now advise choosing organisations where the food program is of high quality. In fact, employees even find that the food can be a motivator to go to work.
“Food is kind of a motivating factor to go to office. I never carried my tiffin with me because I have many options to eat at work. I have friends who follow strict diets but they don’t need to worry about ordering food from outside. There is a variety of salads,” says Prakash Umarnani, Software Engineer at Google India.
Neeraj Binyala, an Assistant Manager at Accenture further reveals that employees have a variety of food, which keeps things interesting. “I stay away from my family and it is not possible to carry dabba every day, but I have ample options at work. At times, I used to wonder if the quality was compromised, but since they have a professional team, that challenge is not there. Everyone has an option for their choice of food, whether diet or comfort,” he concludes.