Why is it that employers are increasingly choosing to have smart fridges installed in their companies? 

It's late in the day, and you've had to work overtime. You're worried because the fridge at home is empty, and you don't have time or energy left to go to the supermarket. And having sushi delivered yet again is a big chunk out of your monthly budget that you'd rather spare your wallet... As you scramble to get your stuff together and get ready to leave for home, you notice a shiny, futuristic-looking fridge in the hallway, full of delicious-looking meals. You catch sight of some Poké Bowls, vol-au-vent, a Tom & Della's salmon salad... Enthusiastically, you scan the QR code with your smartphone and take home a colourful, warm Thai curry dish with scampi. Saved by the fridge!

If this still sounds like the distant future to you, then you are definitely not on board with the latest trend in the food service industry. So-called 'Smart Fridges' are, in fact, on the rise. These refrigerators equipped with intelligent software are gradually replacing the traditional company restaurants.

So, what distinguishes a smart fridge from an ordinary one? A smart appliance contains software that enables automatic operation (even remotely) and can receive or send data. The intelligent refrigerators that are currently causing a furore in the business sector can be opened with a QR code, for example, and also indicate when they need to be refilled. Payment is done via a bank card or telephone. The refrigerator itself keeps track of the meal you choose and automatically deducts the amount from your account.

Smart fridges offer a real alternative to company restaurants...

Why is it that employers are increasingly choosing to have 'smart fridges' installed in their companies?

It has to do with the current developments in company catering after corona. It is no understatement to say that hybrid working is leaving its mark on the traditional model of the company restaurant. As working from home a few times a week is now the norm for many employees, 'smart fridges' can be a handy alternative to company canteens that remain empty due to corona woes.

In addition, smart fridges offer a form of flexibility for consumers that traditional company catering simply cannot cater for. They can now enjoy a healthy meal at any time of the day, without being bound by fixed break times. The range of smart fridges is wide, from breakfast snacks to warm-up meals that can be taken home. And because the cabinets analyse data, they also know exactly which products are popular and which are not. In this way, they can match their offer even better to the consumer's wishes.  

Traditional company catering is therefore under pressure. At the latest Foodservice Alliance congress, it was stated that the importance of in-house catering for a company will probably continue to decline, while technologies that respond to this, such as smart fridges, will continue to flourish. Today, only 4% of employees would have smart fridges in the office, but 2/3 use them every day when they are there. 31% say they would be open to using a smart fridge if the company where they work made them available, and this response comes mainly from the smaller companies. These often do not have the resources to set up a fully operational company restaurant anyway. Smart fridges are much cheaper to install and maintain than a traditional company restaurant, and you don't have to pay extra staff.

So, there are definitely a lot of growth opportunities for this technology. It is a development that will potentially penetrate the foodservice market because it can tap into new markets, such as smaller companies.

At Compass Group Belgium, we also believe in the potential of smart refrigerators as an alternative to traditional company catering. We recently started working with the young start-up Tasties, a company from Schelle that develops smart refrigerators.

Tasties' vision is clear: they believe that these fridges not only meet the demand for more flexible company catering, but also ensure more satisfied employees, who are then more productive at work. By offering dishes from local Belgian suppliers and by cleverly monitoring eating habits to prevent food waste, Tasties can also continue to guarantee the sustainable character of their fridges. 

Investing in intelligent refrigerators is therefore a smart move. They offer a fully fledged, sustainable and cheaper alternative to traditional company catering, from which employers can benefit to keep their employees happy and productive.