Visionaries Eurest USA and Verizon are changing the way companies think about food service by making dining an event.
Long lines. Limp salads. Wallet-draining prices. Enlightened workplaces aren’t standing for that kind of cafeteria drudgery these days. As firms across every industry vie for top talent, many are striving to create better workplace experiences, and a significant deal of that reinvention in today’s demand economy involves food.
In their 2019 survey of the World’s Best Workplaces, the Great Place to Work Foundation discovered that workers everywhere would like a high-trust culture, but that workers in different geographical regions prize certain values differently. Psychological safety takes precedence in Latin America. Sustainability in work and life is the primary concern in Asia. Fairness is paramount in Europe.
In North America, a sense of community tops the list of concerns. Few things build a sense of community more than coming together over a meal; academics have defined food as “a language through which a society expresses itself.” As such, places where workers gather to chat and grab a bite reflect the company’s culture for good or ill — whether in conference rooms, corridors, or cafeterias.
Amongst the enterprises leveraging the power of community to build stronger, more collaborative and resilient workforces, Verizon is a leader through its new food service program at its operational headquarters in Basking Ridge, NJ. Working in partnership with powerhouse food service provider Eurest, the company turned underused space in its 138-acre campus into a dynamic center of connection through innovations in food, technology, sustainability and overall experience.
From empty places to communing spaces
Roughly two years ago Verizon approached Eurest to join them in the challenge to create a world class food service program for its approximately 6,000 employees in Basking Ridge, and with the goal of expanding to their other employee hubs. The campus would serve as a pilot for their long term food service transformation plan. As part of the UK-based Compass Group, Eurest (USA) was the ideal choice to collaborate on the built-for-purpose environment; as global leaders in developing innovative food-based amenities, Eurest creates dining choices and environments to please every palate, schedule, activity level, and business objective.
Tom Teves, Eurest USA’s Division President for National Accounts, told BOSS that while the food itself takes top billing in any dining experience, customer experience, ease of payment, and comfort considerations are the solid performers that contribute together with the exceptional food programs that make the Basking Ridge operation shine.
“Verizon is really driving the user experience. They want the employee to feel cared about from before they pull into the parking lot until they leave, and hospitality is an integral part of that,” Teves said. Through his division, Eurest takes a single point of contact approach to immersion into a client company’s culture to develop programs consistent with their business goals.
In considering the design of the sprawling, two-story facility, Eurest worked with Verizon on a number of different iterations, including a sit-down restaurant. “When you design an independent space, you can do what you think is necessary to drive your particular business, but what we do for our National Account clients is drive a specific business needs and goals from a client perspective, leveraging food and hospitality as a tool to drive our clients unique business needs, within the confines of the client’s facilities,” Teves explained.
Eurest’s Six Sigma process, OnSite Insight is a highly structured collaborative process to interact with our guests and are designed to ensure that the food service giant hears the true voice of the customer, and is then equipped to collaborate with our clients’ design teams to deliver on their employees needs and wants. “That became the basis for everything we did from a program perspective,” Teves said.
Verizon’s impetus to create a pioneering workplace cafeteria is a direct extension of their activity based workplace philosophy. As Joe Rossi, Verizon’s Executive Director of Global Real Estate, put it, “The best ideas are created by people who work together. The workplace, including amenities such as food service, are opportunities to enable collaboration. Collaboration is what fosters innovation.”
Rossi explained that business conversations happen everywhere and decisions don’t need to only be made while sitting down in a meeting room. The dining facility as well as other amenities are treated as an extension of the work desk.
“The impromptu conversations that happen throughout the day are equally important so we need to look at the entire employee journey,” Rossi said. “We strive to encourage collaboration throughout the building as employees go about their natural routine — the cafeteria is an obvious place to foster human connection.”
The Marketplace, as it is called, blends cashless point of sale technologies with apps that allow you to order anytime from anywhere, with a myriad of versatile options designed to make every victual from grazing and snacks to sit-down meals as appetizing, healthful, sustainable, and convenient as possible.
Eurest’s motive is to make transactions frictionless, from a dining room, marketplace, and store perspective. “We have a very mature supply chain,” Teves revealed. “We know where the food is coming from, who is producing it, because we want to make sure that it's safe, authentic, and clean. When customers put it in their body they feel good about that.” Their Eurest Webtrition2 MenuWorks program, he added, “handles all the menu planning aspects to assist our culinary team in producing a consistently best-in-class food product, that coupled with our supply chain gives you clean ingredients, authentic food programs supported with nutritional content so our guests can make informed choices on what to put into their bodies.”
A desire for overall institutional health made the Eurest USA-Verizon plans even more complementary, as both companies place the pinnacle of value on environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and establishing healthy spaces in which to create and thrive. Working with Eurest, Verizon is on track to remove millions of single use plastics from its food program across the country.
Verizon’s Marketplace features a variety of food experiences ranging from an indoor food truck, which was modeled after a Verizon installation van, to grab-and-go salads to a traditional sit-down sushi restaurant. The food choices are so impressive that happy diners can even pick up ingredients for at-home meals on their way out the door. There are also multimedia screens that add compelling visual interest and help employees keep a pulse on important company happenings. And, always a good option throughout the day is a Starbucks located in the upper lobby with even more communal seating as well as team and individual spaces.
“We told Eurest that we wanted to test the possibilities and use the results to make strategic decisions for Basking Ridge and our other locations. Success was based on how our employees reacted to what we were offering,” Rossi said. “The results exceeded every expectation. We increased participation by 24 percent, and we regularly set single day participation records. And, according to Eurest, Verizon’s program has the highest participation rate of any of their US clients at 81 percent.”
“Those results are nearly equivalent to a fully subsidized food program or even fully paid services,” said Spencer Plaut, Manager of Food Service for Verizon. “We have meatless Monday, but we serve good meatloaf and tell a good story. Everyone, including Eurest’s staff, is on the same page about what we want to accomplish at the end of the day. We want to bring people together.”
A typical complaint for corporate dining spaces is the cost of food. “What's interesting is that all of the stations are selling,” Plaut said. “It helps us see that if you provide high quality food options at the right price, people don’t just focus on the cost. People are now focusing on the food itself.”
Sharing the ‘wow’ experience across industries
“A few years ago, it might have seemed strange to receive a request to tour our food facility because it wasn’t a significant focus,” Rossi said. “Now we understand the value in placing emphasis on the food experience and we are excited by the possibilities. We are investing in our employees, taking risks, and sharing our success.”
Rossi explained that Verizon will continue to adjust its program as the business changes, and also as employee and human behaviors change. “There’s a lot of positive energy. We’re having fun with it but we’re also making a difference. That’s what makes it so rewarding,” Rossi said.
Since 1996, Eurest has provided dining services to local, regional and national companies across the United States. Services include operating employee dining centers, on-site catering, vending, executive dining rooms, and other managed services. Eurest is proud to serve companies in every business and industry setting including many of the Fortune 100, financial institutions, technology, oil and gas, healthcare, and airport lounges.
Eurest is a multibillion-dollar food organization with more than 2,200 locations and 21,000 associates throughout the United States. Eurest serves more than 875,000 customers daily and is a division of Compass Group North America based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Compass Group North America is the leading foodservice management and support services company with $18.6 billion USD in revenue in 2018. With close to 600,000 associates worldwide, its parent company, UK-based Compass Group PLC had revenues of $31.4 billion USD in 2018.
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