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5 New Corporate Dining Trends to Embrace: How Cafeteria-style Lunch Is Evolving

Cafeteria-style Lunch Is Evolving

There’s been a buzz about how the old-school model of office cafeteria is changing in recent years. And for a good reason. Prompted in a way by the pandemic, corporate dining is shifting towards new trends. There’s no more rushing to join the long queue in old-style office dining halls during lunch break. Furthermore, employees are becoming savvier and pickier when it comes to their dietary needs, that’s for sure.

So, let’s find out more about the evolution of the corporate cafeteria and office lunch, as well as the reasons why new trends in corporate dining are emerging and are here to stay.

Key Takeaways

  • The old-school corporate cafeteria model is breaking down.
  • Employers are looking into new ways of satisfying employees’ dietary needs and higher job expectations.
  • Office lunch is taking a new shape and becoming a key element in the way workers engage and thrive at the workplace.

Why Companies Are Moving Away From Cafeteria-style Lunch?

Office Lounge

Corporate dining is an integral part of employees’ perks package in many workplaces. However, the recent pandemic disrupted significantly the traditional work model, and with this, the cafeteria-style lunch at the office.

With hybrid work, and more and more companies having their employees back in the office, employers are wising up to the ways, in which they show they care for their staff. Furthermore, traditional corporate food services are, now, proving too costly to maintain.

So, let’s see some of the main reasons why companies are moving away from cafeteria-style lunches and transforming the ways they feed their workers.

  • Cost-effectiveness: In-house food service providers and large office cafeteria real estates are too expensive to maintain, especially when employees have embraced more flexible work models.

  • Flexibility: The antiquated and rigid dining hall lunch menu is no longer in demand. Employers are learning fast that there’s room for more flexible and versatile forms of office dining.

  • Sustainability: More than 60% of all food waste in the U.S. is generated by commercial entities, including office cafeterias. So, no wonder why company owners are rethinking their food service strategies to save on resources and be in line with sustainability frameworks and policies.

  • Employees’ shifting demands: Digital natives and sworn foodies, today’s workforce represent more than one generational cohort group. And they all have higher expectations when it comes to fulfilling their dietary requirements.

  • Competitive advantage: As office lunch is often a key employee perk, company owners are transforming the old-school corporate dining model and turning it into their competitive advantage. This, of course, gives them an edge over their competitors, with regard to talent retention and acquisition.

  • Safety: Post-pandemic, employers reevaluate their health and safety policies. It’s far easier and more cost-effective to outsource food services than worrying about regulatory compliance in the cafeteria kitchen and corporate dining hall alike.

What Are the Changes in the Food Service Industry?

The food industry has transformed in a noticeable way in the last couple of years, due to the recent health crisis. The changes in the sector, which include online orders and meal delivery services, as well as drive-through, take-outs, and boxed meals, have affected both the residential and business services markets. And naturally, corporate dining trends have followed suit.

Related: Cookunity: The Best and Most Delicious Healthy Meal Delivery Service

5 Trends in Corporate Dining to Consider for Your Business

Lunch with Coworkers

New corporate cafeteria trends are growing in popularity, as companies adapt to more flexible post-pandemic work models and settings. Entrepreneurs are embracing new business solutions when it comes to providing and engaging their employees with food.

Here are 5 corporate dining trends to consider in 2023:

1. Inclusion, Wellness, and Variety

Employees, nowadays, value healthier food choices and expect flexible and inclusive eating options at the workplace. They care more about the origin of ingredients and have also become more adventurous and willing to try new foods. Hence, consider offering a range of office meal alternatives to your staff that can meet various dietary needs, whether vegetarian, dairy-free, gluten-free, etc.

2. Outsourcing Food Services

Partnering with local restaurants or meal delivery companies can be a 3 in 1 win-win situation. It’s more cost-effective for your business than maintaining in-house food operations. You’ll be supporting local businesses. And of course, you’ll have a happier, more engaged, and satisfied workforce, due to the better and more versatile food choices you offer.

3. Adopting Technology

Welcome the virtual corporate cafeteria in your place of business! You can organize Zoom team lunches and incorporate subsidized home meal delivery service options for your remote staff. Or you can encourage your on-site employees to order their food via the mobile app of select service providers. There are numerous flexible corporate dining solutions, driven by new technologies.

4. Sustainability and Social Responsibility

Company owners now place sustainability at the forefront of their priorities. By waving goodbye to the old-style cafeteria, you’ll bring food waste to a minimum. Furthermore, ensure that employees’ food comes in sustainable packaging. Last but not least, providing locally sourced office meals will emphasize your social responsibility efforts.

5. Creating Smaller Office Eating Spaces

More pleasant team lunch spaces, where staff can socialize and engage during meal breaks, is a corporate dining trend that is also definitely growing in popularity. From mocktail corners to cozy lounges with healthy snack vending machines, your employees will feel valued and appreciated if you provide them with a far more relaxing eating environment than the anonymous corporate cafeteria of the past.

Related: Why you should replace all of your lunch delivery with CookUnity?

Benefits of Providing a Free Meal for Your Staff

Lunch Dish

Although the old-school corporate cafeteria has lost its appeal, subsidized or free lunch for your staff is a valued perk that will never go out of favor among workers.

Here’s why:

  • Increase motivation - Remote employees in hybrid work environments tend to be more willing to come back to the office and socialize with their coworkers over a nutritious lunch, offered by the company.

  • Improves performance - Providing your workforce with a free meal shows that you care for them, which will inevitably result in increased productivity and enhanced performance.

  • Draws new talent - Offering a free meal, as part of your employee benefits package, will for sure attract new talent, which helps your company grow.

  • Boosts company reputation - Your business image among potential employees, customers, and business partners alike will certainly improve, too.

  • Encourages employee retention - Staff’s loyalty can’t be bought, of course, but every act of appreciation pays off.

Related: 9 Benefits of Providing Free Lunch to Employees


The corporate cafeteria is going out of fashion for a number of reasons. It’s a costly affair for businesses and an antiquated and unsatisfying dining option for employees. With the new and more flexible post-pandemic work models, backed by more and more new technological solutions, comes the new ways we approach lunchtime at the office.

In addition, generations C, X, Y, and Z are today's workforce representatives, who eat smarter, think healthier, and care for the environment. Their shifting dietary requirements and lifestyles are also the driving force behind the emergence of new trends in corporate dining.