Cafeteria subsidy can improve productivity
The pendulum has swung too far.
I say this as a bit of a wake up call to all of us in the food service industry – including yours truly. Why? Because we have gotten to the point where we have accepted average lunch participation rates in the 40% of available population range (or lower) and we think 50% is good. For too long we have cut subsidies and moved to P&L contracts that have driven cafeteria pricing to retail levels. Well as we all know in our business, customers vote with their dollars and in many cases we have lost them.
In my view, we have reached that point where we need to re-think (or maybe re-launch) the model. Yes, it is true a growing percentage of our customers telecommute and we need smaller more nimble operations to serve a smaller base. As always, we must have flexible equipment and delicious sustainable high quality food – that in today’s world is a given. But now more than ever we need a subsidy. That is right. I said SUBSIDY. We need it to provide lower price points to the consumer beyond just the value meal. We need to bring back the “available eaters” by providing them with a great nutritious meal at a reduced price. It is about quality and convenience at a very affordable price that they can’t replicate outside in the retail world.
Corporations have an opportunity to start to move the pendulum back a few notches. Recently I spoke to a few C – level executives who are concerned with their remaining and reduced work forces. Those employees that have survived the cut backs and have been holding down the fort so to speak. They are concerned about their morale and their productivity. THIS is where the subsidy comes in.
Now those of you that know me understand that I would never suggest an open check book approach. Rather, I propose a well thought out subsidy program, one with clear success measurements, a continuous improvement framework, and below market pricing. This could be just the right catalyst to raise participation rates to acceptable levels.
I don’t think there is a better way to drive productivity and morale than by having cafeterias full every day with co workers breaking bread together, staying on – site, saving time, and collaborating about their next project. My message to the CEOs and CFOs or anyone else that will listen is this….the ROI for the subsidy investment is higher participation which can yield increased productivity. If you can get even a 1-2% improvement you will begin to reap the rewards of a happier, safer and more productive work force.
Thanks for reading and for allowing me to evangelize this change in the face of tremendous economic challenge. We are a resilient industry and we hold the key to productivity in the services we provide!
All the best.
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