Thurrock Council Case Study – H4: Healthier Staff Restaurants

Q: What issue was facing your organisation?
The initial apprehension from our site caterers was how the delivery of healthier options would affect profitability, the risk of losing customers and food wastage was initially their primary concern. Combining commercial interest with the councils pledge was initially a challenge. We also realised that simply providing healthier options alongside the usual menu choices would not in itself persuade staff to choose healthy. Delivering this pledge was not just about providing healthy options in our restaurant but encouraging positive changes in individual attitudes and habits towards making these healthier choices. Vending machines were a real issue. They were located on almost every floor offering chocolate bars and fizzy drinks.
Q: What action did your organisation take?
We worked with our caterers to develop and agree a delivery plan which detailed clear actions on how the pledge would be achieved together with responsibilities and timescales. The plan also documented clear outcomes and rag-rated to evaluate progress throughout the year.Delivering the plan was achieved by changing organisational practices, influencing kitchen procedures and specific staff training.

Organisational Practices

The majority of vending machines containing chocolates and fizzy drinks have been removed from all staff areas and the remainder will be removed at the beginning of 2015 as part of the wider office refurbishment project.

A small amount of Vending machines will however remain in the public areas (to which staff will have access). Calorie information will be clearly displayed on the machines which will enable customers to make informed choices prior to purchase. Healthier alternatives have replaced the chocolate and crisps with the highest calorific content, the replacement products have a more balanced nutritional content and 50% less calories than comparable brands. Dried fruits bags are now included along with a popular range of “fun fruit” products aimed specifically at children.

Going forward

Stock control sheets are monitoring the products sold and we will continue to work closely with our caterers to evaluate sales which will inform future decisions and outcomes.

In 2014 we promoted campaigns such as “New Year New You” and “smart swaps” to encourage healthier eating in the new year. This included a poster campaign and a range of physical activities before and after work including: Health walks, Zumba, Tai Chi and yoga classes.

This year we are taking a holistic approach to healthy eating by working in closer partnership with workplace health and linking initiatives together.

This has begun by including a number of media campaigns on the council websites focusing on the benefits of healthy eating. During February we are launching a “how healthy is your diet” project and this will be linked in with further initiatives such as “Walking Wednesdays” and “StepJockey” which we plan to run throughout the year.

Kitchen Practice

We have expanded the choice of healthy options and raised the profile of the range of healthy choices on sale. The menu display boards have been improved and the healthy choices are now more prevalent. The food displays has been rearranged to give prevalence to the healthier snacks and menu items to encourage these healthier options.

The restaurant now provides a range of Food Doctor snacks and crisps that have 50% less calories than similar products. Yoghurts have been replaced with low fat, low sugar alternatives. The choice of sugary drinks have been reduced and replaced with a wider range of water options.

Staff Training

Catering staff consist mainly of apprentice chefs and as part of the training and development programme competences in healthy cooking methods formulated around nutritional ingredients have been introduced. To further develop this proficiency it is planned the restaurant will produce a daily “apprentice special” promoting healthy options and encouraging changes in consumer choice.

The training programme also includes understanding the implications of saturated fat and added salt in diets. The food prepared has specific measured ingredients and minimum salt content rather than discretionary amounts.

Q: What has been the impact of implementing health interventions?
We have increased the variety of healthier choices and reduced the calorie density of our menus.   Healthier choices are now more accessible and available. We have created a more health conscious menu together with a supportive environment encouraging staff to make healthier choices.Our aim is to promote a healthy workplace that influences and encourages good choices and promotes a healthy workplace culture.
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