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Comprehensive Guide To Running Your Own Staff Cafeteria

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

Image of a personnel in staff cafeteria

Today, staff cafeterias aren’t merely places to grab a quick meal anymore. In this modern business landscape, they have become a key component of a productive and engaged workforce, and can do more than just satisfying hunger. In fact, they serve many other purposes that will benefit businesses.

So, whether you’re a human resource personnel wanting to offer more for staff’s welfare, or a facilities manager looking to revamp an existing staff canteen, if you need help with delivering a successful staff cafeteria, this guide will be handy. Continue reading for more tips!

1.1. How Businesses Benefit from a Staff Cafeteria

Now, you must be thinking, apart from the provision of meals, what else can a cafeteria do for businesses? Well, the list of benefits extend far beyond what you’d imagine. Here’s a look:

A. Boosts Employee Morale

Employees eating happily together at the staff cafeteria

The presence of a staff cafeteria within your office building provides your employees with a convenient place to dine at during work days. This convenience can save them lots of time and eliminate the stress associated with the lunch hour rush. Instead of having to leave the compounds to find food, they can simply head to the canteen to grab what they need and have their tummies filled in a jiffy. Your employees can then truly relax and recharge when they’re having their lunch break.

If you’d like to offer the best experience to your employees, be sure to cater to different dietary requirements and ensure that they have access to meals that they genuinely enjoy. This will likely improve their moods and improve mealtime satisfaction. A satisfied employee is a motivated one, and being fed delicious, nutritious meals in a comfortable environment will help your team feel better physically and mentally, which, in turn, boosts their morale.

B. Attracts and Retains Talent

With our competitive job marketing today, many companies are continually looking for innovative ways to stand out from the competition and attract the best talents.

Having a staff cafeteria in the company compound can contribute positively to your reputation as an employer. It is a unique and attractive perk that has helped to set many companies apart, sending a message saying that you care about your employees’ well-being and comfort and making your company a more appealing choice.

Other than attracting new hires, retaining your current talents remains a challenge for most companies.

With the provision of affordable and delicious food with a good variety available in the staff cafeteria, the convenience provided remains attractive to the current employees. The amount of time and effort spent to plan their daily meals will be greatly reduced. Time and effort saved can then be converted to better work productivity, resulting in greater job satisfaction and better staff retention rate for companies.

C. Encourages Social Interaction

Meaningful interactions can be born out of the staff cafeteria as the shared space allows employees from various departments and backgrounds to gather and build relationships and a community within the workplace.

These opportunities for socialisation will foster a deeper connection between your employees and the organisation, as well as improve teamwork and productivity. When your staff are given the chance to forge friendships with others on a personal level, they are more likely to be cooperative when collaborating during work-related projects.

Additionally, in companies with more isolated teams and departments, a staff cafeteria can help to break down silos by providing a neutral ground for employees to meet and interact.

D. Promotes Employee Health and Well-Being

Having a staff canteen also supports companies in encouraging their employees to lead healthier lives, which is an act that will indirectly contribute to the success of your business. This is a strategic investment that can yield numerous benefits for both the employees and the organisation.

Image of fruits, vegetables and lean protein

Businesses can offer a variety of wholesome and balanced meals that include vegetables, fresh fruits, and lean protein sources daily to support their employees in making better dietary choices. By consistently providing regular, reliable, and healthy food, companies reduce the likelihood of employees skipping meals or making unhealthy food choices due to time constraints.

Having a space dedicated to meal breaks and rest also encourages your employees to step away from their workstations regularly for a break, which is essential for reducing stress, enhancing mental well-being, and preventing burnout.

With healthier employees and fewer sick leaves taken, your business will see an increase in productivity.


2.1. What to Consider When Building a Staff Cafeteria

Setting up a staff canteen isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially since it plays such a critical role in fostering a positive work environment. To ensure that your cafeteria is built for success, you’ll need to carefully consider several factors that will affect the design and operations of your space.

A. Space Planning

The layout of your cafeteria can significantly affect its functionality, efficiency, and overall appeal to the employees. Hence, space planning is one of the most crucial steps to take when designing a staff canteen. Here are some key work stations and important things to think about:

  • Kitchen and Service Area

Image of the kitchen staff in a cafeteria

The kitchen and service area is the heart of any cafeteria, where food is prepared and distributed to employees. This is what you should consider when planning the layout of this space:

- Flow

Ensure that the layout promotes an efficient flow of employees through the food service line to minimise wait times and prevent congestion. A linear or U-shaped layout can work well in many cases.

- Speed of Service

Design the service area with speed in mind. Adequate space for food display, serving stations, and payment counters is essential to prevent bottlenecks.

- Space Organisation

Designate specific zones within the kitchen for food preparation, cooking, chilling, cleaning, and waste disposal. Each zone should be well-organised to minimise cross-traffic and ensure a smooth workflow.

- Ventilation

Proper ventilation is crucial to remove heat, smoke, and odours from any kitchen. Install a robust ventilation system to maintain a comfortable working environment for kitchen staff.

- Safety Measures

To keep all occupants of the cafeteria safe, make sure to implement safety features like fire suppression systems, non-slip flooring, and clear emergency exits.

  • Dining Hall

The dining area is where your employees will spend the bulk of their break time at. In order for them to truly enjoy using this canteen, you’ll need to create comfortable and inviting spaces, which can include providing ergonomic seating, ensuring adequate spacing between tables, and installing appropriate lighting.

Your cafeteria layout will determine if it facilitates or hinders social interaction among employees. Using long tables and curved designs, such as round seating booths encourages group dining or conversation, which can foster a sense of community. In contrast, a layout that isolates employees or makes interaction difficult may result in feelings of loneliness and decreased morale.

Image of the dining area in staff cafeterias

A mix of seating options, including large tables for groups and smaller ones for those who prefer dining solo, creates a layout that maximises the cafeteria’s capacity without making the space feel overcrowded. Cramped spaces may deter employees from using the cafeteria, so it’s important to strike a balance between capacity and comfort, especially during peak hours.

  • Self-Service Pantry

Decide whether to incorporate a self-service pantry within the cafeteria or place it elsewhere in the workplace. If you choose to have it in the staff canteen, ensure that it’s conveniently located for employees to access during breaks. And, make sure that your pantry is always fully stocked by regularly replenishing supplies.

B. Interior Design and Aesthetics

The dining experience you get when you step into a restaurant is usually influenced by its interior. The same logic applies to staff canteens; aesthetics and design elements, such as lighting, seating options, and colours, have the power to affect employee well-being, as well as accessibility for those who are less mobile.

  • Lighting

Natural light is an excellent lighting option that can be used to uplift the space during the day, while adjustable artificial lighting can be switched on for evening meals. If it gets too dark during the day, artificial lights should also be utilised to improve visibility.

  • Seats

Prioritise comfort and functionality when choosing your seating options. Consider combining a variety of them, such as small booths for fewer pax, large communal tables for bigger groups, and individual seating to cater to different preferences while providing an enjoyable experience.

  • Colours

Our emotions and appetite are also largely influenced by the colours surrounding us. You may consider incorporating shades that evoke positive feelings and align with the company’s identity, or select tones that produce a pleasant atmosphere suitable for dining. For example, calming hues like blues and greens promote relaxation, while vibrant accents introduce energy.

  • Natural elements

 Interior design of a cafeteria

Materials derived from our natural environment, when incorporated into the indoor space, connects employees to the outside world and even enhances their well-being. Consider filling the cafeteria with elements such as wood, stone, or indoor plants and artwork inspired by the local landscape.

  • Inclusivity

Building a cafeteria that caters to those with mobility issues ensures that they can easily navigate the space. It also helps the organisation create a positive image for themselves.

When designing a staff canteen, install ramps or elevators, plan wheelchair-friendly table layouts, and keep pathways and aisles wide and free from obstructions.

These steps will help you better accommodate wheelchairs and walkers.

C. Safety

Ensuring safety in staff canteens Guide

Aesthetics aside, safety should be every organisations’ top priority when planning and designing a staff cafeteria. In this regard, two fundamental aspects to focus on are accident prevention and hygiene.

  • Accident Prevention

- Line the cafeteria floors, especially those in areas prone to spills or moisture, with slip-resistant flooring materials to effectively prevent accidents related to slips and falls.

- Clearly mark food service counters, tray-return stations, emergency exits, fire extinguisher locations, and first-aid stations using signages to guide staff and visitors through the space safely.

- Ensure that all areas, including walkways, dining tables, and food service counters, are well-illuminated to reduce the risk of accidents.

- Arrange furniture and fixtures in a way that allows sufficient space between tables and chairs to promote easy movement, minimise the risk of collisions, and prevent tripping hazards.

  • Hygiene

- Establish and maintain strict hygiene standards, including proper food preparation, handwashing and attire protocols.

- Invest in suitable food storage facilities to maintain the freshness and safety of ingredients.

- Regularly inspect and clean refrigerators and freezers to prevent cross-contamination and foodborne illnesses.

- Place waste bins strategically throughout the cafeteria and regularly empty them to prevent pest infestations.

D. Food Menu

Apart from designing and building the space, you’ll need to also pay attention to your menu offerings. One that’s invented well can boost employee morale, increase productivity, and even contribute positively to the overall well-being of the company. Here are some key considerations:

  • Diversity and Balance

Provide vegan and vegetarian menus, as well as food choices suitable for those with food allergies or intolerances. The variety of nutritional options that cater to different dietary needs ensures that everyone can find something appealing to their taste buds and tummies.

  • Seasonal and Locally-Sourced Ingredients

Support local farmers by using seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients in your menu. This not only ensures freshness, but also keeps the menu dynamic and interesting for employees.

  • Nutritional Value

Collaborate with nutritionists to create healthy and nutritious menu offerings. Salads, lean protein sources, whole grains, and plenty of fruits and vegetables can promote employee well-being. You may wish to display menu items with their nutritional information, such as the estimated calorie count, to help your employees make more informed decisions.

  • Cultural Diversity

Take into account the cultural diversity of your organisation and incorporate international cuisines and dishes that reflect the diverse backgrounds of your employees.

  • Food Allergies and Sensitivities

Offer allergen-free alternatives or customisation dishes to accommodate specific dietary needs if possible. Otherwise, clearly label menu items with common allergens, such as gluten, nuts, and dairy, to help employees with allergies or sensitivities make safe choices.

  • Special Holidays and Events

New offerings or themed menus planned according to holidays or events can create excitement and anticipation among employees.

E. Manpower

Image of staff working in the kitchen area of cafeteria

As manpower costs continue to climb, it’s important to land on the appropriate staffing levels based on your cafeteria’s footfall to deliver the desired dining experience. Some areas to consider include:

  • A well-experienced team with clearly-defined roles.

  • Provision of designated areas for your cafeteria staff to take breaks and store their personal belongings. When your canteen staff are well-rested, they are more likely to provide better service.

  • Incorporating digital solutions, such as self-service kiosks or web ordering solutions, to reduce the need for additional staff and improve efficiency.


3.1. What is Cafeteria Management?

Cafeterias are food establishments commonly found in schools, corporate offices, medical institutions, and many more organisations where large numbers of people need access to food. And cafeteria management refers to the administration and organisation of food service operations in such dining facilities.

In order for the canteen to run smoothly, meet the needs of its patrons and provide nutritious and appealing food options, effective cafeteria management is crucial. Here are some of the tasks it entails:

A. Menu Planning

Image of person planning a menu for the cafeteria

Cafeteria management teams are responsible for designing enticing menus that cater to different dietary needs. This includes creating nutritionally balanced meals, not just providing food options that could be unhealthy to the body.

B. Food Procurement

The sourcing and purchasing of ingredients and supplies necessary for daily operations are also overseen by the team. They will have to liaise and negotiate with suppliers to ensure the quality and freshness of products procured.

C. Food Preparation

Managing the kitchen staff and coordinating food preparation activities to ensure that meals are cooked, stored, and served safely and hygienically.

D. Serving Operations

Image of person serving food

Efficiently organising the serving area, including setting up food stations, arranging food items, and managing the flow of customers during meal times.

E. Food Hygiene

The team must also ensure that the canteen staff adheres to strict hygiene and safety standards to prevent foodborne illnesses.

F. Manage Manpower

Maintaining a team of well-trained staff is part of the process and crucial for providing excellent service. The cafeteria management team must ensure that the recruit, train, and supervise all canteen personnel.

G. Budgeting and Financial Management

Manage the cafeteria’s budget, track expenditures, and optimise cost-efficiency without compromising food quality and service excellence.

H. Compliance

Ensuring that the cafeteria complies with local health codes, regulations, and any dietary restrictions or guidelines set by the institution it serves.

3.2. Engaging End-to-End Staff Cafeteria Management Services

Image of a cafeteria management team discussing work

If handling the above tasks is too challenging for the lean team within your company, solutions provided by end-to-end cafeteria management services can be very helpful for businesses. Some of the tasks that canteen catering services assist with include:

A. Kitchen and Staff Cafeteria Management

This includes planning the menu, preparing food, staffing, and daily cafeteria operations. Expert chefs and foodservice managers ensure that the food served is not only delicious but also nutritionally balanced.

B. Equipment Sourcing

Cafeteria management services identify, source, and maintain kitchen equipment and supplies to ensure that they meet industry standards and are in good working condition.

C. Provision and Execution of Design and Layout

Cafeteria management service providers assist in designing an efficient canteen layout to create an inviting atmosphere and deliver excellent dining experience.

D. Assist with Licence Applications

It’s not easy dealing with government authorities. But with the help of these institutional caterers, you’ll receive the guidance and assistance you need in obtaining the necessary permits and licenses for your cafeteria.

From designing and staffing canteens to managing the daily operations, many businesses today are turning to cafeteria management services to help them handle everything cafeteria-related. This comes as no surprise, especially when service providers are able to offer numerous benefits to enhance the experience for both employees and employers. The list of benefits include:

A. Time and Cost Savings

Professional cafeteria management services have extensive experience in optimising canteen operations, sourcing ingredients, and controlling costs. Their expertise can help save the business time and money compared to managing food services in-house.

B. Professional Customised Solutions

Want to tailor your offerings to meet the specific needs and preferences of your business and employees? From creating themed menus to implementing loyalty programs, staff catering services can provide plenty of assistance.

C. Focus on Your Core Operations

Delegating cafeteria management to the experts frees up internal resources and allows your business to focus on core operations and strategic objectives that are more important to you.

D. Healthier Food Options

Many cafeteria management services are experienced in promoting healthy eating habits. They are capable of designing healthier menu options containing more nutritious ingredients to contribute to employee well-being.

E. More Variety and Innovation

Institutional caterers have access to a wider network of culinary experts and can introduce innovative menu items and dining experiences.

3.2. Things to do Before Engaging Cafeteria Management Services

Selecting a cafeteria management service to work with is an important decision for an organisation to make. Before you make your choice, it's important to first prepare and conduct research. Here’s what you’ll need to do to ensure your staff canteen’s success:

A. Set Up a Committee to Oversee the Entire Project

Forming a committee dedicated to “project cafeteria” should be the first step you take. This team will be responsible for evaluating who to work with, setting up the cafeteria with the assistance of a service provider, and monitoring the operations.

B. Identify Goals and Objectives

Image of charts, goals, objectives, etc

Then, the committee will need to clearly define the goals and objectives of engaging cafeteria management services. These may include providing menu variety, increasing cost-efficiency, or ensuring customer satisfaction. The goals will serve as a guide towards achieving success.

C. Conduct Due Diligence

Not all cafeteria management service providers are the same, and choosing the right one is critical. Here’s how you can conduct due diligence effectively:

  • Invite potential service providers to submit proposals outlining their services, experience, and pricing.

  • Contact previous or current clients of the service providers to gather insights into their performance

  • If possible, visit cafeterias managed by each service provider to observe the quality of food, cleanliness, and overall customer experience.

  • Make sure that your service provider complies with health and safety regulations and food safety standards in Singapore, as well as any dietary requirements specific to your organisation.


1. Is a staff cafeteria really important?

Providing a staff cafeteria is equal to giving your employees a conducive space for breaks. With the bonus of nutritious and delicious food options, you’re encouraging them to rest, which will greatly reduce stress, improve overall health, and contribute to an increase in productivity.

2. What are some of the duties and responsibilities of canteen staff?

Depending on their work station, canteen staff can be responsible for food preparation, cooking, serving, food purchasing and storage, supply management, and the general upkeep of different areas.

3. What are some key factors my company should consider when setting up a staff canteen?

The overall infrastructure, cafeteria intent and design, as well as hygiene and safety.

4. How can I improve the experience my employees are getting in the cafeteria?

Gather feedback through surveys, offer diversity in your menus, and maintain a clean and inviting environment.

5. Do cafeteria management services offer customised menu options?

Yes, we tailor menus to meet the dietary needs of your employees, as well as any special occasions or events in the organisation.

6. Why are corporate pantry services important for businesses?

Corporate pantry services help ensure that the pantry is well-stocked and conducive for breaks, this means that your employees will have access to essential items like snacks and beverages whenever they’re hungry.

Having a staff cafeteria is advantageous to your business. If you’re planning to set up one for your company, consider engaging staff catering services to save yourself the time and trouble.

Pro*3 Institutional Catering is a one-stop food services provider that delivers end-to-end canteen catering services to assist companies in managing and operating their staff cafeterias. Contact us here to learn more about our solutions.


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