With foodservice operations in thirteen countries and amenity services in many others, Dell Inc.'s dining programs are international in nature and its efforts to improve the health and wellness of its employees have a similarly global flavor.
According to Laura Lozano, facility manager, Dell Global Dining, the company's benefits department, takes a holistic approach to wellness, with a program that addresses issues that range from smoking cessation to work-life balance, stress relief and nutrition.
“We've had a foodservice wellness program for many years, but in the last five have worked to improve its sophistication in the U.S. and to expand it in many other countries,” she says.
Lozano travels internationally on a regular basis as the company's foodservices subject matter expert and as a consultant for its global procurement, environmental health and safety and facilities management initiatives. That gives her an authoritative perspective on how wellness programs need to vary depending on the demographics of individual locations and the cultural expectations of employees in different countries.
As an example, she points to Austin, TX, where employees at the company's headquarters operations tend to be well educated and food savvy. “This is the city where Whole Foods originated and we challenge our vendors to take it up a notch on the culinary side. Many of the employees here have high expectations for our food, including its healthfulness,” she says.
Dell uses a variety of foodservice contract providers across its operations and works with them to fine tune the healthful dining programs most offer so they comply with “Well at Dell”criteria and are branded that way in their operations.
The company evaluates consumption patterns, tracking sales of particular items and at particular stations to see how customers respond to healthful options. “For example, a recent survey of our central Texas sites shows that most weeks, 30-40 percent of our transactions meet the wellness criteria,” Lozano says. “The results are different elsewhere, but keeping such statistics helps us manage the program.”
“In foodservice, a well-trained staff is the key,” she says. “Without that, you can't accomplish much, and in some cases a lack of training can destroy the integrity of a wellness program. That is a prime consideration when we select our vendors and providers.”
Internationally, local managements are just as interested in healthful dining as they are in the U.S., “but the hill can be a steeper climb in some situations because of cultural tastes and habits,” she says.
“You have to respect local traditions, but we seek to broaden traditional menus to make options available that may not have been there before. You look for common denominators to establish a baseline and seek to improve from there.”
In locations where food preferences include popular items that are not particularly healthful, “we work on developing alternative recipes for producing them and on moderated portion sizes as a way of improving these choices,” Lozano says. “Again, a well-trained staff makes these kinds of changes more acceptable to customers.”
In the U.S., “stealth health” strategies are often employed to improve the nutritional profile of popular items. Many of the changes the company has sought to make aren't that obvious and are on the ingredient side or in the back of the house, she says. “Almost all of our stir fries are served over brown rice, for example. We use only canola and olive oil across the board. Nutritionally dense foods like whole grain bread are the standard offering wherever possible.”
Food placement is also very important, she adds. “The way you shift statistics in terms of who chooses what is with merchandising. People still eat with their eyes — when they walk up to a well-displayed pizza station where the offering has a whole wheat crust, homemade marinara with fresh herbs, part-skim mozzarella and fresh roasted vegetables, the food sells itself.”
“People in general understand the importance of diet in wellness,” Lozano says. “The trick is to make it easy and appealing for them to adopt these habits.”