Anna Gorniak, marketing and media manager for Bennett Hay, on how pop-ups can pep up your catering offer…
Pop-ups are a great way to support the changing modern workplace. Impactful food and drink service experiences are being delivered on a seemingly ad hoc basis, in order to activate different workspace designs and enhance the functionality of collaborative, modular office spaces, which change function depending on the time of the day. Powerful pop-up spaces, including workplace restaurants and cafés, rooftops, employee refreshment points, business lounges and reception lobbies, not only create impact within office environments but deliver memorable and personal experiences too.
When it comes to delivering creative food and drink options, employers are having to factor in wider demographics and dietary needs, while also considering the volume and price points of a breakfast or lunchtime meal to meet staff needs. Knowing the office demographic and audience is vital. Through a pop-up set-up, caterers may want to reflect the surrounding area or the brand values that their client represents; alternatively they may want to offer something not easily seen in the office proximity or the business sector within which they feed.
For instance, a start-up business will likely want to replicate their cool, challenging brand through the food produced in their workplace. Reworking British classic dishes with organic, vegan or alternative ingredients will sit better within a tech or media company than at a well-established law firm in the City.
Food stands can be anything the business needs it to become. Whether it needs to reflect the culture of a client, mark a celebration or even feature local craft suppliers, it’s a way to bring an eclectic mix of contemporary and classic food and drink with an element of surprise to enhance the workplace guest experience.
Such is the flexibility of the food pop-up, it has become an extremely favourable workplace catering option, not only providing greater variety but also keeping the offer creative without upsetting the balance of a contracted catering service agreed with the client. For operations with a more limited restaurant capacity or budget, it gives a way to serve new attractive offers, adding to overall employee benefit. Whether it’s an all-day grazing stand, breakfast station or lunchtime stalls serving global cuisines, today’s food-conscious employees see the value of good fare and prioritise time with colleagues or friends in the workplace café and over a communal dining table.
In the age of the fast-casual revolution, guests are eating with more authenticity and purpose; they are aware of the foods they consume and their route from farm to plate. For many employees, a lunchbreak is a quick but precious 30 minutes. A food pop-up can be one of the cures for a time-sensitive office environment, as the caterer can serve fewer items from a bespoke menu, allowing the chefs to cook with better produce, being served to order at speed and delivered at a consistent high-quality standard.
Regardless of time, pop-ups need to deliver a product that is exciting. The general public are more willing to pay a premium for an experience and this is very true in catering. Whether it’s a dish with authentic ingredients served to order or a plant-based twist on a classic menu, customers like to try something different. Bao buns, poké bowls, lobster dogs or African khobez, promoted in advance and delivered outside of the usual counter set-up with a themed drink and a side or snack proposition, guarantees intrigue.
A pop-up can also be targeted at a specific customer group. We found that sport enthusiasts and health-conscious workplace guests respond well to specialist food and drink pop-ups curated by nutritionists to deliver key health and wellbeing tips. We’ve teamed up with nutritionist Kate Law, who runs Wellbeing Days, featuring food and drink from our wide culinary offering alongside a personalised nutrition advice.
When an office wants to bring in new catering options or expand the offer of an established brand, a pop-up concept also works well. They test the market and allow a business to try new things and look for untapped opportunities. The premise for pop-ups should be to introduce exciting catering options to new areas within a workplace, location or new offers to a wider audience.
For companies wishing to introduce new tastes – for example, plant-based dishes are growing in popularity, with their smaller environmental footprint, particularly appealing to customers with a more sustainable outlook – a pop-up is a great gateway option to testing the waters with a new offer. The short-term, instant nature of the pop-up product can generate greater interest and entice people because of its limited availability. It also allows you to drip feed and test food items into the workplace, and gauge their success and profit before committing to a longer-term stand.
Food and drink activations are also growing in popularity within corporate spaces for events. Transforming a workspace into a culinary meet and greet, or using it for a pop-up workplace bar, gives people a reason to network and enjoy their workplace more.
More clients are open to culinary driven pop-ups and exclusive events like ‘takeovers’ by a renowned or trendy restaurant. Even celebrity chefs are being hired to host supper clubs or cooking classes paired with a wine tasting to create that worthwhile and memorable ‘wow’ factor.
From barista bikes serving different coffee blends in a business lounge to vegan dogs and ice lollies on a rooftop during summer, pop-ups are great seasonal activations. Whether it’s serving mulled wine and festive treats to the backdrop of a professional string trio playing carols in a reception lobby, treating cyclists to hot chocolate on a cold November morning, or a lunch truck parked in the office grounds, there is no doubting that food and drink activations greatly enhance the guest experience.