We asked Tom Baxter,
Director of Account Management
at Just Eat for Business
the trends he's seeing in
How HR Leaders Change the World

How has the pandemic changed the way companies design events?

We’ve observed an increased focus on the 'employee experience' with many businesses we work with - wanting to ensure that coming into the office is providing as much value as possible for each employee, whether that’s facilitating more collaboration and creativity or encouraging team building. As a result, they recognise that food can be a simple yet effective facilitator of this experience.

Team socials are definitely returning in full-swing - instead of simply providing kitchen refreshments or office snacks, we’ve seen a huge increase in team meals that get people away from their desks, especially street food pop-ups, which have increased over 200% since 2021.

The rise in hybrid working has also meant that employers are being more mindful of providing a great employee experience to all their staff, whether they’re in the office or at home. For those who may need to or prefer to join an event remotely, huge focus is now placed on providing parity to all participants - that can be in the form of livestreaming in-person keynotes and providing food vouchers or gift cards so that employees don’t feel like they’re missing out on great food perks when they can’t join in-person.

Flexibility and adaptability is crucial for business leaders when it comes to making sure you’re providing the best-possible working experience for all employees.

Are you finding companies are creating more events for their staff, not only their clients?

Absolutely! Off the back of the pandemic, the 'new normal' appears to be settling, with hybrid working largely being the norm. Where previously, the office was a place people had to be, many employers now want to encourage employees back to the office by turning them into ‘destinations’ worth working from.

Food and events can play a big part in that.

We’ve seen the trend to reduce the environmental impact of our food; are you finding companies are asking you for more vegetarian and vegan options?

There has definitely been a growing trend in changing tastes and increased focus on sustainability from companies and we’re always adapting to meet our client’s needs. In the last 12 months over ⅓ of orders placed on our platform have been vegetarian and/or vegan and currently, 40% of our menu items are vegan or vegetarian.

And it’s not only limited to food options - the demand on companies to make CSR a core business value and strategic focus has been on the rise. This in turn can impact the suppliers they work with at various stages of the supply chain such as providing sustainable plastic-free packaging and zero-emission deliveries.

With employee wellbeing and engagement being such a big HR focus post-pandemic, it’s so important for employers to listen to what their employees value. The simplest acts such as providing variety to satisfy changing tastes, ensuring all dietaries are catered for and reducing the amount of plastic waste can go a long way in demonstrating their commitment.

What would you recommend best practice is for catering for employee events and meetings?

Firstly, understand the different needs of your attendees and make sure there are options suitable for everyone’s dietary requirements and allergens.

Secondly, choose food that will be conducive to the objective of the event. If you’re planning a lunch & learn or want to cater an interactive workshop meeting - order food that is easy to eat “on-the-go”, that won’t disrupt the flow of the session too much, such as platters, sandwiches or bowl food. If the plan is to have everyone mix and mingle, you can go for something a bit more interactive like a grazing table or street-food pop-ups that let individuals customise their dishes.

Finally, make sure you don’t forget those who may be joining events and meetings remotely. With hybrid working becoming the norm, it’s important to provide parity as much as possible. If you’re planning to provide in-office catering for your event or meeting, you can also send vouchers or gift cards to your virtual attendees so they can order food to their home. That way, no one feels left out and everyone feels valued.  

What’s your goal for the future in helping companies reduce the environmental impact of their events?

At Just Eat for Business, we’ve made the commitment to be net-zero by 2030. Currently, 40% of all our deliveries are emission-free and we work with various partners to innovate ways to continue cutting our carbon footprint.

In order to reduce plastic waste - we default 'no cutlery' on our platform, as well as offer sustainable packaging discounts to all our restaurant partners. We have also teamed up with CLUBZERO to tackle plastic pollution, providing a reusable packaging service for team meals. Designed to replace plastic packaging through a convenient returns scheme, CLUBZERO’s reusable food boxes use up to 50% less CO2 than plastic-coated boxes and are fully recyclable.

By working with a platform like Just Eat for Business, providing delivered-in meals to their employees, businesses can also reduce their food waste by ordering the exact amount of food needed for their office headcount on that day.

Above all, being adaptable and flexible to changing needs is critical to building lasting relationships with our clients and their employees.