By Louis White 13 June 2017

From food court to tapping an app, there’s a lot more to the evolution of office food options than just the food.

It wasn’t so long ago that the lunchtime search for somewhere to lunch conveniently and inexpensively in an Australian CBD was almost a chore.

By the time you located a food hall or a café, you would have to queue, wait, eat quickly, generally overpay, and then rush back to your desk. Overall, it was an unsatisfying waste of your free time.

But across Australian CBDs, the demand for greater intensity in use of space has seen many previously tired old office blocks start to provide vital food amenities in vacant areas in or around the base of the buildings.

In Sydney and in Melbourne in particular, where city councils have changed laws to allow laneways to be used for small restaurants and bars, many owners have started to re-assess how their buildings are managed. They’re running their rulers over plans to turn otherwise unused space into retail outlets.

Australia Square in Sydney has long been known for its variety of food outlets. It also offers a unique outdoor plaza where city workers can grab some vital vitamin D from the sun with their food.

“Our Australia Square restaurant benefits from high pedestrian traffic because of its location, which enables us to serve as many guests as possible. That has built up our loyal customer following,” says Steven Marks, founder of the Mexican outlet Guzman y Gomez.

“Being in an office building gives us a speed advantage. We can serve up to 450 burritos in peak periods. The location certainly accelerates word of mouth recommendations.

“Our technology allows our customers to order their favourite meal on their app, and choose their preferred pick-up time, so the meal is ready and waiting for them.

“We also have delivery and catering solutions, which give tenants in office buildings a variety of ways to enjoy our food every day.”

Meanwhile, Sydney’s newest business precinct Barangaroo has dramatically expanded the food offerings available to workers. A multitude of outlets is conveniently located at the base of Barangaroo South’s three office towers.

Gateway Sydney at Circular Quay is another example of fast, fresh, and well-priced food. It offers convenience and a wide choice and helps build a community of workers who can share some quality time together.

At the other end of Circular Quay is Grosvenor Place which has transitioned from an empty concrete space with an ATM to a thriving dining precinct surrounded by an open air piazza that is a magnet for tourists as well as the workers in the surrounding office towers.

Australia Square Sydney
Australia Square's unique outdoor plaza.

Who wins?

Good food also draws tourists in tourism hot spots. Local businesses appreciate buildings that continue to serve great food after dark, because it encourages tourists to stay longer in the CBD. 

Food helps landlords attract the right office tenants and gives the building life outside normal office hours. That helps today’s workers, who are accustomed to a mobile working life that includes flexible hours.

And for the food and beverage providers themselves, the opportunity to operate in the city allows them to boost their brands and experiment with different floor space designs than in typical suburban outlets, and with technology that enables efficient ordering and delivery.

Everyone is benefitting from greater diversity in food now on offer across our cities’ CBDs , whether it be breakfast, lunch or dinner. 

Being in an office building gives us a speed advantage. We can serve up to 450 burritos in peak periods
Grosvenor Place George Street Sydney piazza
Grosvenor Place's new dining precinct surrouded by an open air piazza.

Where to next?

Food attracts people, and it has always done so. But now there’s no cookie cutter approach. Thought is given to the people who work in the precinct and what food they would want to eat.

So what’s next for the office worker? 

Convenience, choice, variety, flexibility and affordability are the Plat du jour and not likely to be replaced in a hurry. 

What we can expect more of is fast, casual dining. That trend is set to continue pushed along by the activation of laneways. Expect also to see more casual rooftop bars especially in Sydney.

The newer concept, for Australia at least, is the potential to take ‘grab and go’ food to new heights. Call it ‘fresh convenience’ or think a convenience store serving up good quality, healthy, fresh food.

Whatever takes off, one thing’s for sure, the office worker of the future will never go hungry.

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