In case you hadn’t heard, the buffet as we know it is dead. That includes the catered office buffet. Now, as people head back to the office, companies need new ways to provide lunch that’s more sanitized, more socially distanced, and still quick and convenient for workers.
Online catering marketplace ezCater launched one such way this week. Relish, as the service is called, lets employees order from a selection of local restaurants then delivers all food directly to the office, according to a press release sent to The Spoon.
Using Relish, companies can choose which days of the week they want lunch catered to the office and set a budget for how much employees can spend. Relish then offers meal suggestions from local restaurants near the office. Employees can choose their food from the suggestions, and all meals arrive individually packaged to a central drop-off point in the office.
Companies cover the delivery costs and can choose to subsidize some or all of the meals.
Like other areas of foodservice, office catering is undergoing a reinvention, thanks to the pandemic, and catering services are trying to become integral parts of companies’ return-to-work strategies. With more employees working from home for the foreseeable future, some brands, like Ox Verte and Slow Up, have created direct-to-consumer channels that deliver to employees home offices. Recently, too, Uber for Business launched its Vouchers program, which lets companies customize the types of meals they want to cater, whether it’s for a single employee working from home or a 1,000-person virtual event.
It’s too soon to tell which of the above strategies will prove most popular among corporate customers looking to subsidize employee lunches. Getting large numbers of people back to the office before there is a COVID-19 vaccine could prove challenging. The ability to pivot in this pandemic world is especially important for ezCater, which has raised roughly $320 million in funding. It’s tough to scale your corporate catering when corporations aren’t going into their offices.
On the flip side, once a vaccine is found and more people physically head back to work, the company could emerge as a leader thanks to its early start in redefining the concept of office lunches.