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21 February 2017
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THINK TANK: NUTRITION AND COGNITIVE PERFORMANCE

Earlier this year, the government launched a Smart Working Code to help businesses ensure better and more flexible working practices. It’s indicative of how employee health and well-being is rising up the public policy agenda. Ahead of a catering special next month, we asked you whether your organisation is making the connection between cognitive performance and food consumption.


Join the Think Tank to have your opinion reflected here — editorial@fm-world.co.uk


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Credit: Getty

10 November 2016 | FM World team

newsdesk@fm-world.co.uk


Sadaf Saied: Employee well-being is worth investing in

Food affects how the brain and the body work. There is much emerging research on this: Omega-3 oils improve cognitive function; fibre-rich food makes you feel fuller, and helps avoid a sugar spike at lunch-time, so you are able to concentrate in the afternoon; keeping hydrated improves concentration and reduces confusion; and caffeinated drinks increase alertness. The data is all out there and looks promising.


Using this knowledge, caterers should consider a range of nutritionally balanced products that reduce the chance of sugar rushes. Offering oily fish regularly, providing fresh chilled water and encouraging full lunch breaks are all things that organisations can do as part of a health initiative that do not require major investment. Additionally, shift workers should be offered breakfast on-site to ensure that the entire demographic is covered in any health drive.


The biggest hindrance to organisations that are looking to adopt these changes is changing the culture of how businesses and individuals work: the disassociation of top management with health of the workers; ending misconceptions that healthy means more expensive; and the challenge of promoting the vital link between food, mood and health for a happy and healthy workforce. Investment in the physical and mental well-being of employees is worth the investment if that means having fewer accidents at work, increasing efficiencies and improving job satisfaction.

Sadaf Saied, head of dietetics at G4S FM


Survey results 1


Robin Hay: Nutritional initiatives in organisations

As a bespoke hospitality provider that offers contract catering, we focus a lot of our well-being efforts on nutrition. 


Scientific research and feedback from academic studies has inspired us to create our own nutritional programme ‘Restore’. We introduced a diverse food and drink offering that helps people counter the stresses of modern life and feel good throughout the working day. Restore aims to help people stay hydrated, maintain healthy sugar levels and consume more antioxidants, which in turn helps boost their immune system. The range is popular with our guests and teams alike.


Increasingly, leading property developers and building owners are embracing the nutrition idea of the WELL Building Standard to create environments that positively influence good health.

Robin Hay, co-founder, Bennett Hay


Survey results 2


Julian Fris: Making catering a focal point again

Are you seeing organisations making a connection between cognitive performance and consumption?

This is something we are seeing more of from across industries, in varying degrees. There are anecdotal examples we can point to. 


In one academy we support a ‘family dining’ model has been introduced where everyone eats together, no food is brought in and pupils can’t leave the premises to buy food elsewhere. The school has repeatedly achieved Ofsted outstanding ratings, seeing an improvement in results since the idea was introduced. One can attribute the learning outcomes to the new methods but it is difficult to quantify fully.


Elsewhere, clients are measuring higher sickness and absence levels where there is a poorer food service provision. This isn’t an exact measure but can be seen as one of the contributing factors. The challenges of measurement are being explored by different bodies, with varying success.


What does this mean for catering? 

It could put catering back as a focal point in the workplace and, after years of cost-cutting, we might see the resurgence of the subsidy from companies who really buy in to the benefits. Clients will need to consider the additional subsidy costs vs the increases in productivity.


Any other significant shifts?

We are seeing a move back to hot food provision, which is more easily achieved with advances in technology, e.g. induction and combi-ovens can reproduce a contemporary offer that appeals to customers without the massive energy and space-consuming kitchens from the past. Customers see more value in hot meals and this is helping with engagement with their employers. Better engagement, as we know, leads to better productivity.

In the NHS there’s an initiative called the CQUIN, a clinical quality measure of health and well-being of staff and patients – trusts that achieve this are paid an incentive. 


And our research has found that there is a significant resentment about workplace dining areas that charge too much. ‘Value’ and ‘price’ are key issues. Those who want to encourage people into their venues need to look at significantly reducing tariffs.


It’s worth noting that nutrition is only one part of the equation. It is equally important to look at social interaction and engagement alongside this to aid productivity and workplace strategies.

Julian Fris, director of Neller Davies 


Survey results 3


Wendy Bartlett: 
How we ‘DARE’ clients  to promote healthy eating

We are supporting many of our clients in delivering their workplace strategies focusing on this subject. A large part of our input concentrates on providing nutritional education alongside our clients’ existing workplace activity. 


While few are currently able to make a direct and scientific link between cognitive performance and consumption, we are seeing wellness in the workplace as an increasing strategic priority. Often driven by HR, clients are looking at programmes that support the improvement of employee engagement, which aids productivity and ultimately delivers better business success.


As part of DARE (Delicious and Responsible Eating), a programme we’ve designed to promote healthy eating, we’ve worked with clients to introduce initiatives such as ‘Wellness Wednesdays’, and ‘Healthier meetings’ that both look at the educational piece alongside the introduction of more nutritionally balanced food. We have also rolled out campaigns that reward loyalty and healthier food choices. For example, one client introduced additional fitness classes as part of their existing activity; those who attended were given a voucher to use in the restaurant to obtain discounts and offers on DARE foods.  


Our nutritionist Penny Hunking is holding workshops with clients and customers on the importance of eating foods that address key nutritional issues such as eating for ‘healthy brain function’. 

Wendy Bartlett Executive chairman, Bartlett Mitchell