Company catering / Corona crisis

"Green dishes have strong sales potential"

Christian Feist worked for many years in a leading position in company catering.
Christian Feist worked for many years in a leading position in company catering.

Health is becoming a mega-topic in the Corona crisis - especially in company catering as part of company health management. But how do you make it palatable to diners, works council and management? A conversation with the expert Christian Feist about the right communication, sense and purpose of the traffic light system and about the anchoring of health in the business model of the company catering trade.

Mr. Feist, should the guest notice anything if I trim the food offer to healthy?
Christian Feist: At best, he notices it positively. The more wholesome food is good for us at the end of the day. In no case should the result be that the guest gets the feeling that something is being taken away from him. Then resistance arises. A 20 percent better health score is usually possible - without having to change the concept. That's our experience.

Does that mean that the classics should definitely remain on the menu, but with lighter recipes? And not so often?
Right. Instead of fries, offer a potato salad with the schnitzel. In the same way, I can offer the grill plate with fries or in the lighter version with grilled tomato and baked potato. This makes a big difference in terms of nutritional physiology. So the guest doesn't have to miss out on his favourite dishes at all.

Do I have to get the works council on board with such a conceptual reorganization?
No, not necessarily yet in that case. I would make it simple at first and later point out: Look, within the framework of the current requirements, we have given everything! And now we have to discuss whether we have to or can give even more, and what it takes to do so. Interestingly, health orientation is also more and more in the interest of works councils and can be a basis for a new kind of co-determination. It can help to strengthen workplace health promotion in the interest of all in such a way that the focus can be diverted somewhat from cost considerations.

What does a good, sustainable canteen concept look like that I can use to convince everyone involved?
A clear conceptual orientation of the company restaurant helps a lot here. Of course, the focus must be on the wishes of the guests, as well as on their needs, times and stresses - the works council is a good point of contact here. A good canteen concept takes into account the company's individual needs, cultural habits, traditions and regional characteristics. It is not helpful to implement changes overnight. It' s better to take small steps, always taking into account what works well - and what doesn't.

So the company restaurant needs a clear profile in the direction of "balanced and delicious"?
Yes. This succeeds with a gastronomy that clearly says: "I orient myself within the economic and entrepreneurial requirements to a balanced, tasty food offer to pick up the customers and guest." In our communication we always try to have the word health appear subordinate if at all. Food must be a pleasure!

About the person
Christian Feist is a trained chef with a dietary background as well as a state-certified hotel manager. Until 2018, he workedi n corporate catering and held various management positions with operational responsibility - both under third-party and in-house management. As founder and managing director of Gesoca, he now supports company caterers in the development and implementation of a health-promoting food offering.

What do you think of guest guidance through a traffic light system?
With good communication, I think a traffic light system is a good tool because it's intuitive and simple - perfect for an everyday decision like lunch. It should be clear that red means "you are welcome to eat it, but not all the time". And I have to make it clear as a company manager that this is only about nutritional quality.

The traffic light only gives limited information about craftsmanship, product quality or the love I put into a dish. If I manage to communicate this clearly, it is already a great added value because customers gain an orientation. In some cases, rating only "green" dishes is also an appropriate start. Green marketed dishes, for example, have strong business potential according to a study by Bonn University Hospital.

What experiences have you had with subsidising healthier offers more, i.e. making the veggie dish cheaper than the curry sausage, for example?
Price control or subsidisation with the help of health is becoming more and more accepted. However, the more conceptually intervened, the clearer the company must communicate this.

The Corona crisis and the massive expansion of home office work are clearly putting pressure on the industry. How do you see the future of the company restaurant??
The company restaurant will develop even more into a cultural meeting place. If employees are only at work two or three times a week, then the employer has to create much more of an experience, offer rooms where people can meet and be well looked after. Here, company catering can also make a major contribution to employer branding.

But in a corporate cultural context, it also means following the company's interest: Offering people a treat and making them understand that health-promoting food can be fun, an experience. After all, the entrepreneur has an interest in his employees eating sensibly even in the home office. The company restaurant can be a role model here. By substantially integrating the health aspect, health can be turned into added value for the caterer or chef. That is, through variable health-related catering subsidies and or through target agreements for kitchen and operations managers. However, the basis for this is that a clear and comprehensible distinction is made between more and less health-promoting. Such things must be discussed today in the interest of all, before the budgets are cut.