Healthy eating in the workplace is a priority for BM. In 2021, workplace absenteeism averaged 4.6 sickness absence days. The causes of workplace absenteeism, and productivity losses, are complex and multi-factorial. As a workplace caterer we are in a unique position to support our clients improve their workplace well-being.
Factors that affect dietary behaviours are complex. Poor dietary behaviours have been attributed to an increased risk of chronic/ill health conditions which impacts on workplace productivity.
We align ourselves with the current government guidelines about healthy eating. They include Public Health England’s responsibility deal and the Food Foundation’s Peas Please Pledge. We use up-to-date evidence in nutritional science to promote workplace well-being. We aim to reduce our customers’ intake of saturated fat, free sugars and salt as well as increase intakes of fibre, some vitamins and minerals.
Read our 10 point guide to see how catering can be a positive force in promoting health, well-being and productivity in the workplace.
Relevant and evidence-based nutritional information displayed in the workplace has the potential to reach a wide audience. Improvements in food literacy are associated with improvements in healthy eating patterns. We have created a healthy eating programme, known as Vitality, which we consistently promote to engage customers. Employers who actively promote well-being in the workplace are eight times more likely to have employees fully engaged in their work (13).
2. Make the healthy choice the easy choice
The eating environment can have significant effects on customer decision making. In food retail, promotions account for 40% of take home food expenditure. These promotions increase sales by 22%. Most promotions are for foods that are high in sugar. When these promotional ‘nudging strategies’ are used they tap into customers’ preference for convenience. We use this approach to increase sales of healthy choices.
The physical structure of the eating environment can have significant impacts on food selection. By placing healthier items at eye-level we can for instance, nudge customers to buy an apple instead of a chocolate bar.
3. Education for chefs
We provide our chefs with nutritional training so they can educate customers. To increase their knowledge of healthy eating our chefs work alongside our nutritionist. They learn how to select healthier ingredients and become familiar with adapting menus to make them healthier.
4. Engagement with national campaigns
Our health-related campaigns highlight our commitment to national well-being initiatives. These include the Peas Please Pledge to increase the amount of vegetables we serve. Themes are linked to our regular events, like Vitality Kitchen pop-ups to support customers to make healthier choices.
5. Spread the word
To make sure we are communicating consistently, we regularly review our healthy eating strategy. We ensure that nutritional messages remain relevant and accessible for all customers.
Our Vitality Kitchen recipe cards improve customers’ awareness of healthy eating. Vitality recipe cards are always displayed for customers to take and cook at home. This helps our customers to improve their food knowledge away from the workplace. This is part of our commitment to educate and inform our customers.
6. Tariff incentives
A range of factors can be influential in why customers struggle to eat healthily. Price, is often quoted as the main barrier. This can have a consequence on our dietary health. Foods that are the cheapest and most heavily promoted are often the highest in sugar(10). Customers want to eat healthier, with a survey by YouGov showing that 66% of consumers support cutting price promotions on junk food(11).
Increasing the price on products higher in sugar has seen a reduced demand in many cases(12). This shows there is room for a shift of tariff and promotions towards healthier products(13).
The British Heart Foundation states the potential economic return on investment (ROI) for a UK business that invests in workplace health initiatives is £4.17 for every £1 spent (14).
We have estimated that if a less than 0.05% improvement in absenteeism was achieved it would deliver a ROI.
Diets rich in plant-based foods, with fewer animal sources are the most beneficial for health and the environment. Our focus is on modest amounts of fish, meat and dairy foods. Where fish, meat and dairy products are served the focus is on seasonality and high welfare foods.
8. Combating food waste
Ten million tonnes of food and drink is wasted annually in the food chain, hospitality being responsible for 17%. In workplace catering, food waste costs £44 million each year, 45% from preparation, 21% from spoilage, and 34% from customer plates.
Ways we aim to reduce food waste include;
- Providing portion size options
- Allow customers to choose side dish options
- Redistribute food waste through London City Harvest
9. Lunch and learn
We hold fun lunchtime sessions for customers. Alongside tasty snacks, the topics including;
- Portion control
- Reading food labels
- General healthy eating
- How to reduce sugar, salt and saturated fat in your diet. In addition, we host repeated peer support and group discussions. These empower customers with nutritional knowledge and increased food literacy. This enables them make the best possible food choices both at work and at home.
10. Informed opinion
We look at the science behind the headlines to clear up mixed messages. Our expert nutritionist, Charlotte Newman examines the body of evidence, not just one isolated study before presenting the information as fact. We never make a recommendation just because it’s ‘trendy’.
We are committed to governmental targets to improve healthy eating at work. This includes industry targets for sugar, and salt reduction as well as PHE’s responsibility deal(4). We review our healthy eating policy in response to nutritional science and governmental guidelines.
Download our Healthy Eating guide
To share best practice, we have developed bartlett mitchell’s expert guides for workplace and contract catering. Download the pdf guide to Different types of catering contracts or read our expert guide to 5 advantages of contract catering
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2. Government Office for Science. Tackling Obesities: Future choices – Project Report. London; 2007.
3. Public Health England. The Eatwell Guide. London: Public Health England; 2016.
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5. Peas Please – Food Foundation. Foodfoundation.org.uk. 2019. Available from: https://foodfoundation.org.uk/about-peas- please/
6. Public Health England. National Diet and Nutrition Survey. London: Public Health England; 2019.
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11. Public Health England. Sugar Reduction: The evidence for action. London: Public Health England; 2015.
12. Cancer Research UK. Public back ban on children’s junk food advertising [Internet]. 2016. Available from: https://www. cancerresearchuk.org/about-us/cancer-news/press-release/2016-02-08-public-back-ban-on-childrens-junk-food-advertising
13. Cabrera Escobar M, Veerman J, Tollman S, Bertram M, Hofman K. Evidence that a tax on sugar sweetened beverages reduces the obesity rate: a meta-analysis. BMC Public Health. 2013;13(1).
14. British Heart Foundation. Health at Work – Business Case Infographics. London: British Heart Foundation; 2015. Available from: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/publications/health-at-work/health-at-work—business-case-infographics
15. Willett W, Rockström J, Loken B, Springmann M, Lang T, Vermeulen S et al. Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. The Lancet. 2019;393(10170):447-492.
16. Wrap. Estimates of Food Surplus and Waste Arisings in the UK. 2017.
17. Oakdene Hollins, Responsible Hospitality Partnership and WRAP. Overview of the Waste in the UK Hospitality and Food Service Sector. Banbury: Wrap; 2013.