“The way food tastes is strongly influenced by where and with whom we eat it,” says Gian Luca Giardi from Zátiší Catering Group in an interview for Morethanoffice. Zátiší operates over a dozen company cafeterias and cafes. Are office workers’ tastes evolving? And why don’t people also visit cafeterias after work?
In July, you opened a new bistro named Vision Cafe in the Visionarry office building in Prague’s Holešovice district. What’s the concept behind it?
We bet on the tried-and-true model from our other cafeterias. At the Vision Cafe, we offer hot breakfasts and a lunch menu without long lines. Currently we’re testing a payment system using pre-paid cards that should improve the customer experience even further and speed up daily dining.
You are “only” open until 5 p.m. Do you expect that people won’t be interested in a drink and/or dinner after work?
We can state from experience that people don’t like to spend their free time in spaces that evoke in them feelings of work and obligations. Nevertheless, we do adapt our opening hours to the needs of our customers.
Vision Cafe is also open to people from “the street.” Why aren’t you open on weekends to cater to them?
Our concept is based on providing high-quality food during the work week, when our customers are under stress and need to use their time efficiently. The other operations within our Fresh & Tasty concept are likewise in localities that our customers tend to frequent more on weekdays than on weekends—business centers, office buildings, and schools.
FAST, GOOD, BIG
Where do you see the largest differences between a company cafeteria and a traditional restaurant?
People visit restaurants not just for food, but also for an experience. They’re happy to wait for their food, because they’re talking, drinking wine, and having a good time together. A company cafeteria has to meet other requirements—providing good food in good time with good quantity. We’ve increased the efficiency of our food preparation to the point that we’re able to cook it from fresh ingredients fairly quickly. At our operations, the process from the customer’s arrival to the serving of food is swift, including e.g. ordering and payment. These are the biggest differences and simultaneously advantages relative to traditional restaurants.
Can you take a specific example and use it to illustrate for us how you’ve made the food preparation process more efficient? And do you see any further links in the chain where even more time can be saved?
We do very efficient work with menu engineering. This means very detailed work with a well-considered menu composition that makes activities link into each other. As for the preparation of the dishes themselves, it is planned out by our chef in great detail. We also furnish our kitchens with practical tools that help here, such as color-coded ladles for serving specific volumes. Their colors help the staff orient themselves quickly and scoop up foods in the right amounts.
Can customers order foods online straight from their desks?
We don’t yet offer this service. But in the future we do plan to connect our services with the online environment to make them even more efficient and convenient for our customers.
Your Fresh & Tasty concept offers two basic services: Food at School and Food at Work. What are the most striking differences between them, and what, on the other hand, do they share in common?
What they definitely share is quality, freshness, and taste. Feeding children is demanding in terms of variety and of the use of certain ingredients that aren’t favorites among children, such as fish and certain vegetables. However, in our experience, children usually adapt to changes in their menus significantly faster than adults do.
How does the Food at Work model, meanwhile, differ?
With food for adults, we can experiment more. For example we offer spicier and seasoned foods. We also serve lesser-known known international dishes that aren’t a good fit for children. For example we work with Indian spices as a replacement for salt. Cutting back on salt is something we’re working on at all of our operations. Adults also have a broader choice of “side” items such as soft drinks and snacks. At our school-based operations, we try to keep these limited.
In your experience, do taste preferences differ between cafeterias serving Czech companies and those serving internationally-staffed firms?
Most of our operations serve an international clientele. Still, we can state that expats more often seek out foods that are vegetarian or vegan and lighter and healthier.
So if tenderloin or goulash are on the menu, it’s likely that it will mainly be Czechs who order them?
Yes, Czech dishes are primarily beloved among Czech customers.
Your operations can be found at various companies, from renowned IT companies to major media houses. Can any differences in taste be found among the individual fields?
At Microsoft, we run just a cafe, without the option for traditional lunches. Google, meanwhile, pays attention to balanced dining in small portions with a strong emphasis on variety. They are distinctive in how much they do to care for the planet (plastic- and waste-free food preparation/serving, local ingredients, refillable bottles, and filtered water). TV Nova and Rádio Svobodná Evropa (RFE), meanwhile, are classical dining halls where they care about a full plate and a wide selection of affordable meals.
FOOD WHEN YOU’RE IN A RUSH
What in fact are the pillars of the Fresh & Tasty philosophy?
We believe that food is a source of calories and energy for not only our bodies, but also our brains. We perceive high-quality food as an investment into human talent. In our hurried age, time can play a greater role in food decisions than the quality of the food itself. Fresh & Tasty’s job is to offer our customers daily food services that give them access to high-quality dining, so that they don’t have to give up fresh, tasty food just because they’re in a rush. For these reasons we take great care to ensure that our food uses primarily local ingredients, and that it is fresh and high-quality, with a minimum of chemicals and antibiotics.
Do you let diners take food out with them, or do you fundamentally object to employees eating at their desks? Should they set aside a little time for a relaxed lunch every day?
Takeaway is one option that we offer. But we also know that our cafeterias serve as informal places for company meetings. Customers do meet at lunch, and often thanks to the shift of environment, they find more solutions there than they would in a traditional meeting room. Also, the taste of food is strongly affected by where, and with whom, you’re eating it. So we definitely support the trend of leaving the office for lunch and eating food in peace at a dining table—or perhaps outdoors or in office relaxation zones if there’s an opportunity to do so.
How has employees’ demand for different types of food in company restaurants changed over the last few years?
We’re seeing a shift away from heavy foods; the vegetarian option and the balanced salad bar are growing. One major trend is the protein flip—eating less meat in exchange for more vegetables. People have a greater interest overall in nutritional values and a balanced diet. With drinks, there’s a greater interest in unsweetened home soft drinks and green juices. And when it comes to coffee, the trend is towards roasting beans less and emphasizing local roasters.