The future of the lunch break: Huckletree

By Hugo Jenkins

- Last updated on GMT

Jenkins: 'It might sound obvious, but everything about how we consume food will become more integrated - even more than it already is.'
Jenkins: 'It might sound obvious, but everything about how we consume food will become more integrated - even more than it already is.'

Related tags: staff retention

Hugo Jenkins, vice president of commercial at Huckletree, discusses the future of lunch breaks as the nation emerges from lockdown.

As ways of working rapidly shift around us – the way (and what) we eat is changing – presenting exciting opportunities for growing food businesses.

While the ‘return to the office’ has happened in some shape or form for most and normality has largely resumed, hybrid models of work and flexibility are now expected for workplaces, resulting in different answers to the age-old question – ‘what shall I have for lunch?’

At Huckletree, we have direct insight into how companies are boosting their team’s motivation at our spaces. Wellness packages, flexible approaches to using workspaces, and incentives to get teams back in the office in the form of breakfast and lunches are commonplace.

Luckily, there’s a plethora of FoodTech businesses analysing the changing behaviours of workers who are looking to capitalise on these new opportunities - whether at home or in a workspace.

IRL team lunches vs laptop lunch breaks

There’s a big divide on what lunchtime looks like to those coming into the office. Some want to treat themselves to a ‘going out’ lunch, whilst some prefer convenience and a low cost.

For the latter group, there are huge growth opportunities for brands like Huel, the nutritional meal replacement, and plant-based meal company allplants to tap into.

For the former, if you’re lucky enough to work for a firm that works with someone like corporate catering platform Eat First (formerly London Food Production), you may even be treated to a virtual team lunch from their ‘Virtual Canteen’ or an IRL breakfast for the days you are in office.

However, what both groups of people have in common is when they are working from an office, they’re often there for a specific purpose, a client meeting for example.

We’ve started to see people booking meeting rooms daily for much longer periods, which brings a greater need to feed the team.

Consequently, we now offer optional catering to meeting rooms when people book them, via companies like Feedr, who offer fantastic, seamless options for prepared meals.

Long live snack and coffee culture

Snacking is, has and always will be a huge part of office culture. However, snacking habits have recently changed to be much healthier. We’re currently working with Vinny, the smart vending machines which stock healthy alternatives to standard crisps.

There’s also been a rise in artisanal treats: take ice cream for a starter. It’s exploded – from the success of mochi maker Little Moons to Remeo Gelato – members in our White City hub’s FoodTech zone, who have generously installed an ice cream freezer for fellow members.

Lockdown has presented a huge opportunity for challenger foodie companies to get into people’s homes, offices and minds – and the best ones are now looking to use this to fund their rapid expansion, including Little Moons.

Coffee culture won’t go away anytime soon, as people have got used to having premium coffee at home without needing to travel out to a busy Pret, and subscriptions like Grind present a big opportunity for businesses moving forwards.

Knowing this, we are introducing coffee subscriptions at certain hubs which teams can choose to offer as an employee perk.

Convenience is king

Once seen as guilty treats, takeaways have become staples to the homebodies, with hassle-free deliveries providing some much-needed comfort during lockdown. Even for the health-conscious, plant-based take-out options have become an easy choice.

Throughout the pandemic, takeaways became a civic duty, enabling people to support local businesses. Post pandemic, 80% of people say they feel more connected to their community and 35% are purchasing locally more often, a sentiment that brands like Mindful Chef and Uber are tapping into (Canvas8, 2020).

Even those with a growing passion for cooking find grocery delivery companies, such as Weezy, Zapp, Getir, Gorillas, a must. Instead of leaving your home (or office), goods can now be at your doors in minutes, a convenience which 60% of us have become accustomed to (OnePoll, 2021).

Key takeaways and the future

It might sound obvious, but everything about how we consume food will become more integrated - even more than it already is. More offices will start to include lunchtime into their benefits, placing Friday team breakfasts alongside mental health app memberships.

Meanwhile, FoodTech companies will integrate loyalty schemes and discounts to encourage workers to repeat-purchase while providing for workers at home.

Finally, I’m simply looking forward to eating with colleagues in person more, and in the not so distant future, digging into a Spag Bol made by a robot pasta maker.

Related topics: People & Skills

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