Most corporate offices had a “return-to-work” plan set to go into effect this month, but the delta variant of COVID-19 is delaying that return for many. Even when offices do reopen, it looks like hybrid models will grow in popularity, allowing employees to work remotely several days a week.
That doesn’t bode well for eateries that feed the office lunch crowd. But Alex Groesbeck, president of restaurant aggregator Fooda, is optimistic.
“Delta may be postponing that return, so the timing is different, but we believe there will be a dynamic work environment in which employers will incentivize workers to come into the office,” he said. Fooda believes more companies will want to have more robust food options without operating a full-blown corporate cafeteria.
Fooda partners with local, independent restaurants in 24 cities, which, in turn, set up popups in office building lobbies and other centralized locations. Pre-pandemic, it was a win-win for both the restaurants and office workers, who could choose lunch from a variety of menus available on different days of the week.
To accommodate the changing office environment, Groesbeck and his team retooled Fooda during the pandemic, focusing on upgrading technology to allow companies to subsidize food at work through discounted meals at restaurants.
Fooda invested in a proprietary POS platform that not only allows office workers to make mobile orders in advance, it includes a QR code function that provides a discount given at the point of purchase. The employer subsidizes the discount, so a $10 burrito ends up costing the employee $7, for example.
“We made the tech seamless to encourage companies to make food options more compelling and affordable to employees,” said Groesbeck. Fooda is betting that this will be a tempting incentive for employees to return to work.
About half of Fooda’s existing restaurant partners have come back on board, with another 50% new ones signing up in the last few months. The company also dusted off and invested in its delivery platform, an upgrade that is increasing bulk catering orders for restaurant partners. Meals are packed individually and some popups have realized $400 to $2,000 in incremental sales, Groesbeck said.
“We’re focusing on workplaces that have fluctuating workforces,” he said. “We can adjust the number of restaurant popups according to the number of people in the office on certain days and scale up if that number increases.”
Fooda also has plans for folks working from home. “We’re trying to partner with companies that offer other services, giving remote employees the opportunity to buy snacks, cleaning supplies and office equipment,” said Groesbeck.