If you ever crossed an open space or walked down a corridor at lunchtime, you'd be hard-pressed to believe that having lunch at your desk is theoretically forbidden, in France at least. In reality, employers turn a blind eye most of the time, and employees make the most of it. It's a shame as they deprive themselves from some of the benefits offered by the lunch break, including escaping for a while.
In France, regulations ask that at least 25 employees request an area dedicated to catering before the employer is required to provide one.
This area can take the shape of a kitchen where employees can have their meals, or that of a company restaurant handled through contract catering. It must offer seats and tables in reasonable quantities, one fresh and drinkable water tap per 10 workers, a refrigerator to preserve foodstuff and drinks, and the means to heat up dishes. If less than 25 people express interest (in fact, just one is enough), the company only has to set aside some space, allowing employees to eat in healthy and safe conditions. But why should these workers be denied access to balanced, quality meals at reasonable prices, available through a few clicks?
France has 140,000 companies employing 10 to 250 people (30 on average), making up a catering market worth an estimated €7bn, of which €5.5bn are devoted to luncheon vouchers.
Of course, luncheon vouchers are a widespread solution in France, but they are not mandatory. They're a means of payment, not a restaurant. They can only replace one under certain conditions:
- setting up a company restaurant is materially difficult;
- employees agree to receive luncheon vouchers;
- at least one restaurant in the vicinity will take those.
So there is definitely a demand and a market for a contract catering offer that's accessible to small- and medium-sized businesses with at least ten employees, keeping current regulations in mind. Its definition, construction and rollout require tried-and-true catering expertise, solid local infrastructure and a mastery of digital solutions.