The Rise Of Food Delivery Service – Will We Do Away With Office Cafeteria?

(Google’s cafeteria in Haifa. Image from OfficeLovin)

 

I never worked at Google. Or Facebook. Or Apple. In fact I never worked with Fortune 500 companies. Maybe luck wasn’t really on my side for all this while.

But what makes one (like me) really wants to join those titans? Some may say the financial stability as big companies like those are known as pulling few billions in revenue and profit annually.  Or maybe a cool office in Silicon Valley, a mecca for anything and everything related to unicorn startups nowadays, where even a loss-making companies could still pull in few hundred new graduates every year as their intern. Some may be attracted to opportunity to work in different part of the world someday.

Some may offer more specific perks than the others. Google offers gym and massage therapist. Facebook offers four months of paid time off for parents within first year of child’s birth or adoption.  Salesforce offers in-office meditation sessions led by monks and mindfulness rooms. Genentech provides on-site haircuts, spa treatments, and car washes.

Or maybe because they offer free  food. Everybody loves to eat. Even better if it’s free.

A Lavish Perk For Insiders, A Source Of Jealousy For Outsiders

 

Offering free food as one of the perks at a cool office and elaborate cafeteria like Google or Apple was never a surprise to anyone. After all, a happy tummy leads to a happy employee. Nobody wants to do coding or troubleshooting a network issue with an empty stomach. It’s also a great attempt for those companies to ensure that their most prized assets won’t spend so much time outside every lunch time looking for something to eat.*

(Facebook’s cafeteria. Image from HuffingtonPost)

Even for less-than-giant companies in many parts of the world has their own cafeteria, or at the very least a pantry room with unlimited supply of coffee or cookies just to ensure that their employees won’t drop dead due to famish. Apart from becoming a place for them to fill their tummy, a cafeteria or pantry room is also a good place for them (and us) to mingle with our colleagues or a place where we can have less-than-serious-and-formal conversation. Or some gossips and office banter.

But what if the company’s name is not Google, Facebook or Apple? What about those startups that still needs to have a place where they can reward their employees with relatively generous subsidies of free food but lack the financial muscle or office space to provide it?

Worry not, food delivery service to the rescue. And although the age of cafeteria will still be here to stay, food delivery service could be the driving force that may put cafeteria operator on a notice on whether or not all organisations actually need large space for their people to enjoy their food.

 

Will Food Delivery Disrupts Cafeteria?

 

Food delivery service is not a new phenomena. Almost every single one of us used to call some sort of pizza or Chinese food delivered to our house from the comfort of our sofa.  Yes, the choice might be limited 20 years ago but nowadays there seems to be a trend where not only the food delivered to our house but also to our office, for lunch, dinner or anything in-between. And it’s no longer a question of ‘pizza or Chinese-food?’ either. If your office is within a vicinity of a crowded and popular business area, chances are the menu option would be quite limitless. If you’re lucky, you might even get it parachuted for you. Just don’t shoot the ‘chute.

(Image from The Next Web)

But in the age where physical building is no longer the only place where we called as office, how will companies provide this perk (free food) to their employees?

Food delivery could be the answer for that.

Unless those companies are as rich as Google or Uber, not many companies especially SME or startup can afford a large space to be their dedicated cafeteria. Not to mention a potentially large capital and operating expenses for running it. And don’t forget about catering to different tastes and/or religious or social challenges of preparing such meals on a large and regular basis. And as the awareness of work-life balance has started to take place, companies shouldn’t expect that their prized assets could be enticed with unlimited supply of free food at the company’s cafeteria or massage therapists to make them motivated.

(Grab is already running a beta of ecommerce services in Thailand called Grab Mart. Image from Grab Thailand)

Time has slowly changed, so as the way how to motivate employees. And it could start with the way how companies treat them with regards of free food.

For a start, instead of erecting and operating a full-fledged cafeteria, companies could subsidies or reimburse their employees with specific daily stipend so that the employees could choose their meal of the day on their own. And it’s up to each individual employees to choose what they want to eat and which delivery companies will deliver it rather than being decided by cafeteria operators or majority votes.

In the future, those companies could actually develop a partnership with those food delivery companies to outsource food preparation services and free up their financial resources by not having a dedicated office cafeteria (presumably until they reach the size of Google, Facebook etc). They just need to build a dining hall area which could also become a discussion area or some other social activities place.

Time For Food Delivery Services To Grab The Opportunity

 

(UbetEats. Image from Eater)

Once those companies see the cost-saving impact of outsourcing food services, food delivery services like GrabFood, UberEats and Foodpanda are ripe for a new growth opportunity. No longer they only cater for few individual orders like what most of them are already doing but moving forward they could cater the future Google or Apple. Yes, not all companies allows outsiders like Deliveroo to swamp their office to deliver food on a daily basis (i.e security consideration), but not all companies are as sensitive as Apple of Facebook.

The space currently dedicated for employees enjoying their lunch or dinner won’t go away (unless they are remote workers) as they still need somewhere proper to eat. But the notion of large cafeteria with free food could be the next thing to get disrupted in the future. Maybe not a large scale of disruption like taxi industries vs. Uber, but like taxi industries, who would have thought that one day that could be disrupted by a company that doesn’t even own a car?

And with that, food delivery companies are poised to take the opportunity to grow their revenue and market even further. After all as stated earlier, physical offices are no longer the only place that we need to do our job. As a lot of tasks can be done online, employees should be free to do their job from wherever they want, and the appropriate perks (in this case, free food) should follow them as well.

 

 

* I’m still waiting for a day when one of those titans will actually build a lavish condominium buildings around their offices or headquarter so that their employees could live, work and stay within 10 minutes walking distance. If and when that happens, taking a sick leave will be an elaborate process for the employees. After all, their supervisors can always pay them a visit at home to verify it.

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