Breathing new life into lunch amid the upheaval of hybrid working in the post-Covid-19 world

August 18, 2023

Lunch may seem an essential part of the daily routine, but the changes to the workplace brought about by Covid-19 have upended many of the traditions associated with it.

With large numbers of staff working from home for some or all of the week, the demand for catering services that provided lunches has changed.

The challenges associated with lunch came under the spotlight during an event at the most recent edition of SIAL Paris, where a key theme was how new life could be breathed into the practice of having lunch at the workplace.

Among those speaking was Olivier Mouminoux, who at the time of the discussion was business development and retention director for Elior France, a contract catering and support services company.

“There were already some changes before Covid but now, mostly, people are coming to the office for three days a week and the other two days they are at home. And for the lunch as well,” Mr Mouminoux said.

“What we have to take into account now is to make sure the people coming on those three days are really attracted by the catering.

“When they are coming they have to be really motivated … to have some fun during lunch, to discover some new products, to have a culinary trip during the lunch. That, for us, is very, very important.”

Breathing new life into lunch amid the upheaval of hybrid working in the post-Covid-19 world

Photo credit: Ria Quartz / Unplash

Lunch time, Mr Mouminoux said, is not only for eating, but is also for socialising, so there must be suitable spaces made available for this.

Many companies, he told attendees, have reduced the area they have available for catering and are no longer providing a kitchen.

“The number of occasions for snacking has really increased,” he added. “And the improvement of digitalisation, the click and collect approach, with some apps. We are providing a lot of snacking through the app we implemented for our client.”

Food could be one way of luring employees back to the office, Mr Mouminoux suggested, such as by organising a brunch on a Friday.

The other speaker at the event was Mathieu Reverte, a partner at Team Créatif Brésil, a design company that is involved in, among other things, the development of food packaging.

Mr Reverte said that in Brazilian cities such as Sao Paolo, people had been “very slow to come back to the office”, slower even than in Europe. Food deliveries have “boomed more than 60%”, he said, which has modified the habit of having lunch.

Breathing new life into lunch amid the upheaval of hybrid working in the post-Covid-19 world

Photo credit: Edgar Castrejon / Unplash

“Our social muscle has really diminished and we have some difficulty to come back to the office and interact with people. That’s why lunch, sitting for a meal is still very important for Latin culture,” he said.

“We need to find many options to make lunch enjoyable, indulgent and really tasty because young people they are really extremely on the pleasure side, they are pleasure seekers.

“We see this pleasure dimension because food is about sharing, [the] emotional dimension is something companies and catering and restaurants need to catch up.”

Bars and restaurants have been inventive in trying to find ways to attract back customers who may otherwise have eaten elsewhere, Mr Reverte said.

“With a lot of bars and restaurants the city has allowed them to change parking lots into space … so people can sit and have lunch in a better area,” he said.

Other restaurants have closed their actual restaurant and turned themselves into “dark kitchens” producing simpler versions of their popular dishes for delivery.

Since appearing at the event at SIAL Paris, Mr Mouminoux has left Elior France and is now employed as chief operations office international business units at Loxam, a company that provides rental equipment to industrial, construction, retail and events firms.

Main photo credit: Spencer Davis / Unsplash

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