Work perks | Free food ranks high on list of office return incentives

Free food ranks high on list of office return incentives

Subsidised food and beverages could be key to bringing employees back to the workplace, especially during the cost-of-living crisis, according to a new survey. 

The quantitative study of more than 1,000 business and industry workers was commissioned by Eurest, one of the UK’s leading workplace food service providers and part of Compass Group UK and Ireland. Free food or drink vending come top of a list of what would tempt employees back to work, with 77%.

Free coffee, tea, drinks and snacks was next on 76% and an onsite restaurant provided for free made the top five on 71%.

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Other stand-out results from the survey included:

  • 52% of those whose employer did not offer a workplace restaurant would be tempted to return to the workplace if they did

  • 73% of employees in a business that has a restaurant would speak highly of their employer to others – compared to just 64% of employees in a business that doesn’t

  • Happiness is 7% higher in companies that operate a restaurant

  • 79% say they work more effectively when they spend time in the workplace

  • 74% say they enjoy being in the workplace

  • 68% miss the social interaction provided by a workplace

  • 80% love being able to work from home at least occasionally and 78% didn’t want to give it up

Morag Freathy, Managing Director (B&I) of Compass Group UK & Ireland, said: “These results underline the value of a workplace restaurant, especially as businesses across the UK search for ways to encourage employees back to the office.

“But they are also hugely relevant for industry, where factories and warehouses have never closed and workers have been unable to work from home.

“The prospect of subsidised or free food in the workplace restaurant is a significant attraction for employees in both sectors. And that’s not surprising when you consider that rising energy costs and rising inflation are squeezing home budgets in what are difficult times for so many.

“We are already seeing some businesses introduce this kind of offer. In fact, we have done so ourselves at our Parklands head office, where dishes made on site are offered free.

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“Not all employers are able to follow suit, but they should be encouraged that subsidised meals or higher quality menu options are also attractive to employees.

“Other lower cost benefits, such as free tea, coffee and snacks, or free vending machines, can also tempt employees back to the workplace.

“Furthermore, if businesses can turn their restaurants into spaces where people can bond, innovate and collaborate as well as eat and drink, there are positive outcomes for everyone.”

Eurest practices what it preaches, introducing a fully subsidised food and beverages offer to its UK headquarters in Parklands, Brimingham as part of a full refurbishment of the site. Since then, the proportion of its employees using the site restaurant has increased from 69% to 95%.

The Top 10 things that would encourage people to visit their workplace more often, according to the study, were:

  1. 77% - free food or drink vending

  2. 76% - free coffee, tea, drinks, snacks

  3. 75% - free parking

  4. 73% -  subsidised travel

  5. 71% - an onsite restaurant provided for free

  6. 69% -  a kitchen or kitchenette

  7. 58% - food and wellbeing events

  8. 55% - fitness centre or gym

  9. 52% - an onside restaurant, premium café, or canteen you must pay for

  10. 48% - onsite childcare

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