Culinary Favorites Entice Work-from-Home Employees Back to the Office

by | May 14, 2024 | News Releases

Metz Culinary Management, Inc. (Metz) is helping its corporate culinary clients entice formerly remote workers back to the office with out-of-the-box dining initiatives that promote in-office comradery and teamwork. Westfield Insurance in Westfield Center, OH, and Erie Insurance in Erie, PA are on the front lines of the initiative.

Before COVID-19, 17 percent of U.S. employees worked from home multiple days per week, a share that increased to 44 percent during the pandemic. With COVID-19 in the rear-view mirror, many businesses are requiring formerly remote employees to return to the office.1

Westfield Insurance
Located in Westfield Center, OH, just south of Cleveland, Westfield Insurance stands as the area’s largest employer, with over 2,600 employees. Following the

pandemic, the company’s leadership adopted a hybrid work model, with employees spending at least three days a week in the office. To support a positive transition back to the office, leadership collaborated with Metz to introduce Throwback Thursday, a weekly event designed to add a fun approach as employees returned to the office.

“Our culinary team and our partners at Westfield selected the most popular meals and put them up against each other in a March Madness bracket-style competition, which we called Throwback Thursday,” said Phil Hudak, Chef/General Manager for Metz. “Employees and guests were invited to vote for their favorite meal, and then we’d repeat the process over several Thursdays until we identified the most popular dish.

Dishes featured in Throwback Thursday included:

  • Meatloaf
  • Kielbasa with Kraut
  • Mac and Cheese
  • Asian Chicken Salad
  • Meat Lasagna
  • Honey Baked Chicken
  • Kentucky Hot Brown
  • Shepards Pie
  • Chicken Parmigiana
  • Cincinnati Chili
  • Salmon
  • Turkey and Dressing

Following four competitive rounds, Meatloaf earned the title of Throwback Champion, winning by only one vote! Most importantly, employees responded positively with staff participation in onsite dining growing from approximately 350 during the pandemic to more than 600 post-COVID-19. Throwback Thursday proved to be so popular that Metz is planning similar promotions throughout the year, highlighting popular sandwiches and salads along with multi-cultural foods and events like Black History Month that celebrate culinary diversity.

“The Westfield staff really enjoyed the competition and the opportunity to reconnect with their team members in person,” said Hudak.

Erie Insurance Group

Erie Insurance Group, with 5,970 employees, is located in Erie PA. During the pandemic, employees had the option of working in the office two to three days a week and the remainder at home. Beginning January 1, 2024, corporate leadership required all employees to return to the office three days a week while maintaining two floating work-from-home days.

“Erie Insurance leadership wanted to rebuild the office culture and approached Metz to create enthusiasm through food to support social connection,” said Natalie Bartlett, Sommelier and General Manager, Erie Insurance Group for Metz. “It’s human nature to bond over our favorite meals, so it just made sense to generate excitement through our dining offerings.”

Metz established build-your-own bars featuring:

  • Nachos
  • Burritos
  • Noodle, pasta and rice bowls
  • Baked potatoes
  • Poke
  • Soup

They also set up a variety of pop-ups with breakfast items like bagels from local vendors. A traveling coffee cart, offering complimentary coffee, tea and hot chocolate, proved to be an employee favorite.

Led by Natalie Bartlett, Metz offers after-work wine tastings that highlight the unique qualities of different wines as well as great wine-food pairings. Beer sampling events give employees an opportunity to try beers from popular local breweries. Additionally, Erie employees also are slated to go head-to-head in comradery-building events such as an Ultimate Chef Competition with Metz’s chefs and Erie leadership serving as judges.

“These events have been very successful,” said Natalie. “We’ve seen a 52% jump in employees partaking in on-site breakfast, lunch and C-store purchases since returning to the office in January.”

Initiatives like these are key part of Metz’s commitment to working hand-in-hand with culinary partners to enhance the guest experience while elevating employee satisfaction and corporate loyalty.