Innovations for Expanding Workers’ Access to Food During and After COVID-19

WRITTEN BY: Workplace Insights Team

From Pop-up Convenience Stores To Pre-order Platforms

The onset of the coronavirus crisis almost instantly changed consumer behavior, including how and where they eat. These changes are likely to be long lasting as consumers make every effort to stay healthy. Dining innovations are helping business entities give employees and guests greater access to food and elevated dining experiences — today and into the future. 

As access to food changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, foodservice operators adapted to meet the changing needs. Businesses needed to deploy leading-edge food service innovations that gave essential employees easy, convenient and safe access to food. 

Recognizing these needs, more businesses are making modifications to their business models. For example, Uber launched Uber Direct and Uber Connect in select cities. Fine dining establishments began offering take-out and family meals, chain restaurants became grocery markets for essential items, and some restaurants began selling DIY meal and drink kits. 

A growing number of organizations are already ramping up their operations with innovations in foodservice— including many of Aramark’s partners.

Consumers’ frustrations with cooking at home1

  • 45% can’t find what they want at grocery stores 
  • 31% dislike long grocery store lines 
  • 22% boring options and lack of variety 
  • 19% too much cooking 
  • 16% limited delivery options 
  • 13% restaurant food tastes better

COVID-19 Consumer Dining Insights
Many consumers tried new technologies for the first time during COVID-19, including2

  • 17% made online purchases 
  • 12% used a food delivery service 
  • 11% placed an online grocery order

Many businesses partnered with mobile-first delivery companies during COVID-19, including: 

  • Chick-fil-A partnered with Uber Eats3 
  • Sheetz partnered with GrubHub4
  • Walgreens partnered with Postmates5

How Aramark is Meeting the Demands of Our Changing World 

During the coronavirus outbreak, foodservice organizations faced a new set of challenges, including: 

  • Providing essential workers and front-line employees with adequate access to food and dining options 
  • Ensuring customers can have limited physical interactions while accessing food and dining options 
  • Delivering easy access to a wider range of healthy food options 

The following foodservice innovations launched by Aramark are expanding essential employee dining options and experiences with safe and convenient access to food at their workplaces.

#1 Pop-Up Grocery Stores 

Essential workers and front-line employees have become the backbone of the U.S. workforce, helping to keep everyone healthy, safe and fed during the pandemic. But who is taking care of them? 

Innovative Solution: A proactive way to support workers is to provide them with on-site access to convenience stores at work. Across the U.S., Aramark teams have transformed many retail spaces into pop-up grocery stores to provide essential employees with a safe and convenient way to purchase necessities, such as meal options and household products. 

Aramark’s first turnkey pop-up, Provisions on Demand, convenience store opened in March at a New Orleans hospital. By the end of April, over 100 pop-up stores were operating on-site at businesses, healthcare organizations and higher education campuses. The stores’ inventory includes a selection of milk, eggs, bread, frozen meals, canned goods and paper products. 

Result: Allowing essential workers and front-line employees to shop within their own workplaces gives them convenient access to essential groceries and saves them the time and health risks of stopping at traditional grocery stores. 

#2 Grab-n-Go and Take-Home Options 

Many people want to follow guidelines and limit physical interactions with others to stay safe, including while purchasing food. But they often find their options are limited. 

Innovative Solution: Aramark expanded grab-n-go programs in facilities, including a full offering of hot and cold food items for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Items are prepared fresh on-site and are available for guest pick-up in cafés. People can also order full hot-and-ready meals to take home and enjoy. Each meal kit is ready to be assembled and feeds up to four people. 

Result: Giving essential employees greater access to prepared food ensures workers and their families have easy and convenient access to nutritious meals without spending valuable time shopping and preparing three meals a day. 

#3 Digital Platforms for Pre-Orders and Pick-Ups 

Many people want to follow social distancing guidelines and limit their physical interaction with other people, including while ordering food. But they often lack convenient and efficient ways to place orders. 

Innovative Solution: Digital platforms for pre-ordering and picking up food allow guests to limit unwanted physical contact with restaurant workers and other guests, while increasing speed and convenience. Aramark has launched digital platforms that let people place orders and pay electronically for meals. 

Result: Essential workers and front-line employees have gained safer and more convenient opportunities to access food for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks by ordering and paying online. This has resulted in limited physical contact and a better dining experience. 

#4 Produce Market Box 

More people want a wider variety of healthy dining options than ever before. Unfortunately, the pandemic has further diminished options, which has elevated workers’ frustration. 

Innovative Solution: Around the country, many farmers groups are preparing fresh fruit and vegetable boxes for purchase. Using a diverse distribution network, Aramark is helping distribute the produce boxes to workers at its partners’ locations. Essential workers purchase them in on-site cafés. 

Result: More front-line employees and essential workers have greater and easier access to a wider assortment of fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, giving them an opportunity to meet their preference for healthier dining options.

Aramark is Helping Meet Workers’ Dining Needs — Today and Tomorrow 

As we all continue to navigate our uncertain world, Aramark is working diligently with our partners to meet their workers’ dining needs as they expand and change during the COVID-19 crisis — including providing them with safe and convenient dining options. Meeting today’s dining needs will also help expand dining options for essential workers and consumers going forward — from providing healthier dining options to improving mobile order taking. 

Contact Aramark today to learn more about meeting the needs of your workers.


1 Datassential, COVID-19 Report 15
2GutCheck, Today’s Consumer Mindset
3 QSR, “Chick-fil-A Strikes Delivery Partnership with Uber Eats”
4 WHSV, “Sheetz Announces New Partnership with Grubhub for Delivery”
5 Walgreens

Innovations for Expanding Workers Access to Food guide