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The Groupon Café Caters to Health-Focused Millennials

With many uncertainties floating around the new healthcare laws, many businesses have looked to tackle their high-cost insurance premiums via wellness offerings by focusing on the fare their cafeterias offer. Groupon is one such company.

Groupon CafeA year and a half ago, Guckenheimer, which also runs the corporate cafés at the Google and Adobe headquarters in California, took over the cafeteria space at Groupon's office in Chicago. From the get-go, the foodservice management company has taken a heightened health and wellness approach to its dining offerings. Sustainably produced, organic and, where possible, local foods play an important role in their operations.

"We start by focusing on what's in season when we develop our weekly menus," says Amy Ford, Guckenheimer's Midwest region executive chef. "Our focus is on food that appeals to a younger, hip crowd in their mid-twenties but with a healthier spin." Instead of a traditional greasy burger, the café will offer a grilled turkey burger with avocado slices and sweet potato fries. The culinary staff makes everything from scratch, which is possible due to well-planned staff prepping rotations.

The café, which feeds roughly 1,200 people a day and features a servery setup with varying action stations encircling a center salad bar, includes a tacqueria, grill, deli, action entrée station and both hot and cold grab-and-go sections. In addition to daily boxed salads and sandwiches for quick service, the café also offers Mediterranean platters with hummus and crudités and occasionally sushi.

"We also have daily vegetarian and vegan options at all the stations including the taco bar and all of our sauces and soups are vegetarian unless otherwise labeled," says Ford. Gluten-free diners can generally find what they need at the entrée stations and at the extensive salad bar, which includes a wide range of fixings, like pickled vegetables, whole grains, local cheeses, seeds, dried fruit and tofu products.

Menu cards and boards, as well as the operation's website, prominently list those products containing specific food allergens. Customers can post their feedback about dishes or other needs through a comments section on the website.

With the office situated on a semi-isolated stretch of the River West neighborhood just minutes from downtown, Groupon employees have limited time and travel options for meals and quick snacks. When the weather grows colder, even more choose to stay on the premises, so Guckenheimer essentially competes against itself to provide high-quality food with plenty of taste and nutrition diversity. "Since we see the same people every day we have to keep things fresh and interesting in such a closed environment," says Ford.