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How can workplaces stop their employees wasting their lunch breaks in canteen queues?

How can workplaces stop their employees wasting their lunch breaks in canteen queues?

Research abounds showing that UK workers are too busy to take proper lunch breaks and get away from their desks. Some recent stats from Sodexo show that employees only take 22 minutes for lunch. We all know that lunch breaks are very important opportunities to take a respite from work and recharge. With the pressure of hectic work schedules and busy lives, how can employers help their workforce benefit more from their breaks? And by extension, how can corporate caterers help workplaces?

How can workplaces stop their employees wasting their lunch breaks in canteen queues?

This article first appeared in HR News online.

To get to the bottom of this, we conducted a survey, together with our loyalty partner Yoyo, among UK workers to find out how they use their lunch break at the moment, their frustrations and how their breaks can be improved.

Lunch breaks are short and time wasting
Our research found that most office workers do not take the full lunch break entitled to them. While 82% of UK workers with a canteen say they are allowed to take between 30 minutes and an hour for lunch, 73% will take half an hour or less. In several cases, people take very short lunch breaks – more than one in three (37%) workers say they need to skip lunch, grab something and head back to their desks, or, at most, take a short 15 min break. Indeed, 34% admitted to skipping lunch altogether two or more days a week.

The convenience of workplace canteens, cafes and restaurants can provide an environment for a break and a good meal without leaving the building. However, we found that the process for employees to get their lunch wasn’t as smooth as it could be and that it is taking as long for employees to get their lunch in-house as it would be to stand in line at a shop. We discovered that the average time workers spend choosing and then waiting to pay for lunch is 4.5 minutes. For those taking 15 minute breaks, this represents a waste of almost a third of their lunch break. Around a third (31%) of people spend between 5-20 minutes in line for food in canteens.

This matters to employees. When asked, over a quarter (27%) of people said “speed” was one of the two most important factors when considering their lunch options – and nearly a quarter (24%) said that queuing times actively put them off visiting their canteen.

Technology to the rescue
So what’s the answer? This is an area where technology can help and workplaces will quickly see the benefit. 21% of employees said that they would visit their cafeteria more often if the service or queuing was faster and 26% would visit more often if they could pre-order lunch and pick it up without queuing.

This is the kind of service that mobile and online ordering technology can support, but corporate caterers are not taking advantage of this as much as they could. When we asked employees about the kinds of technology they already see in their workplace restaurants, pre-payment and pre-ordering came bottom of the list, with 17% saying their canteen offers pre-ordering and only 12% saying that they have access to the combined pre-payment and pre-ordering functionality – a missed opportunity to increase footfall among the 24% of people who were put off by queues.

It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved. With a little bit of help, employees can see their waiting time for food cut so they can enjoy more of their lunch break, employers will see happier workers, and corporate caterers will see growth in office cafeteria footfall.

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