How Eurest supported airport workers in a cost-of-living crisis

Last winter, Heathrow Airport partnered with Eurest to offer free meals to staff to help with the rising cost of living in the UK. Jasleen Mann speaks to Tom Bonner, contract director at Eurest, about the initiative. 

A Eurest cafeteria with a grab-and-go station. Credit: Eurest.

During the winter of 2022, Heathrow Airport introduced a collaboration with catering company Eurest to provide all staff with free meals.

The partnership, introduced to make a difference for people during the cost-of-living crisis by providing access to a daily free meal and a free hot drink, ran until the end of February.

Tom Bonner, contract director at Eurest

Eurest is the on-site contract caterer for Heathrow and introduced the scheme within four weeks despite challenges such as re-opening workplace restaurants that had remained closed following the Covid-19 pandemic. Food vans allowed Eurest to serve every part of the airport.

Around 6,000 staff members had access to vouchers on their Eurest app. The vouchers can be used at any time for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

The exclusive Eurest app, compatible with smartphone devices, generated a daily QR code voucher. It was also possible to redeem the meal via a dedicated Eurest loyalty card for more food options.

Overcoming obstacles

Tom Bonner, contract director at Eurest, says: “It was important that the meals were accessible across all terminals. We used dedicated workplace restaurants and provided additional delivered-in solutions for those who work more remotely on the airport grounds.

“All our general Eurest food concepts and menus, as well as our grab-and-go items, are included in the offering. The Heathrow team is also entitled to one hot drink each day.”

A special menu was also created for the on-site fire station, which delivered ingredients for the firefighters to cook themselves.

Given the large scale of this scheme, including an increase in labour as well as colleague training and the development of the app, the team at Eurest had to overcome multiple obstacles.

The Lucky Panda Asian concept at Heathrow T5. Credit: Eurest.

“Naturally, there were a number of challenges to overcome to get an operation of this scale up and running successfully,” says Bonner.

“We had to recruit additional Eurest team members to carry out the day-to-day running of the service, as well as expand our on-site fleet to facilitate the extra drop-off points and increased volume of deliveries. We also had to remobilise closed units to accommodate the enhanced offering.”

It was important that the scheme was delivered in time for the Christmas period, which increased the urgency of the project. The success of this project supported many staff members in terms of value savings in the winter.

Sustainability ethos

Eurest was given a CSER award during The Caterer’s Foodservice Cateys 2022, an award which focuses on sustainability. Around 80% of Eurest’s menus are locally sourced and over half of its meal options are plant-based. 

“We work in partnership with our clients and so essentially, they view us as an extension of their own team. It’s important to us that we get to know our clients’ ethos, values and objectives. 

“After all, our workplace restaurants can help to embody these, especially those relating to workplace culture, well-being and sustainability,” says Bonner. 

Through collaboration on multiple research trials with the University of Oxford, Eurest has built an understanding of consumer decision-making factors in relation to sustainable food choices. 

We are currently proactively building relationships across the transport industry, with a close focus on Heathrow itself.

Eurest was also named Business & Industry Caterer of the Year at the Foodservice Cateys in 2022, highlighting its expertise and the success of its on-site facilities.

Bonner says: “We pride ourselves on being the leading contract caterer within this industry, so it makes sense to share our knowledge and expertise by extending a hand to other travel providers.

“We are currently proactively building relationships across the transport industry, with a close focus on Heathrow itself, to strengthen our foothold in this market.

Eurest is also the dedicated caterer for Heathrow Airport’s contingency catering throughout the year, providing last-minute catering when required. This has included providing catering to a team repairing baggage belts and serving the team that was supporting the Afghanistan repatriation flights.