555 Belgian employees responded to the first questionnaire; two thirds of them were female workers.
Most employees that were familiar with a programme promoting balanced food (59.5%), reported being informed through a food industry campaign. 80% of those unfamiliar with one would have liked to receive more information on the subject.
The meaning of balanced nutrition for Belgian employees was almost equally either ‘various food in a moderate amount in a nice environment’ or ‘eating pleasant food while at the same time protecting your health’. This indicates that pleasure, environment and diversity are positively associated with balanced food. Also in Belgium, the most respondents out of the six countries linked balanced food with food low or free of fat,salt and sugar. This result can indicate that balanced nutrition is also associated with dieting, a result that can portray a negative image to this type of food.
Around 40% of employees reported being overweight or obese as it can be seen in the following graph. Fewer respondents reported being obese compared with national statistics.
Figure 1: Breakdown of employee reported weight
Belgium has the smallest number (12.2%) of employees out of the six countries reporting having their lunch in restaurant. Nearly 90% of employees preferred to have home cooked food or food brought into the office. The majority (70.5%) have their lunch in the office in a common room and 17.3% have their lunch at home.
Those eating out preferred to have their lunch in a bakery or sandwich bar or a fast food restaurant. No employees responded to eating in a restaurant!
The main reasons given for not eating out in a restaurant was preference for home cooked food (53.9%) followed by 31.4% claiming to not having time to go out.
Figure 2: Breakdown of lunch places frequented by Belgian employees:
The main determinant in choosing a lunch place for Belgian employees was the proximity to the workplace. Affordability and quick service were the next important factors. What they wanted at the present time was the main factor in choosing what to eat.
51 Belgian restaurants responded to the questionnaire. The majority were restaurants offering a special lunch menu and most often a ‘dish of the day’.
Figure 3: Respondents’ restaurant classification:
About half of restaurant owners claimed to be familiar with a programme regarding balanced nutrition (49%) with the majority informed by television. Just over half of those respondents claimed to actually know who was promoting the programme.
38.5% of the respondents who were familiar with such a programme have applied its recommendations in the restaurant, mainly by increasing the amount of vegetables offered and offering dishes lower in fat, salt and sugar. Three quarters of those who haven’t applied the recommendations have not done so due to lack of demand from their customers. Lack of time was the reason given by the other 25%.
More than 80% of restaurant owners claimed to have some knowledge of balanced food, similar to the average of the other countries but Spain, as is evident from the following graph. 5.9% of respondents (second highest percentage after the Czech Republic), were not interested at all in issues of balanced food.
Figure 4: Restaurant owners’ knowledge about balanced food
The most respondents out of the six countries reported in Belgium to be using local produce in their restaurants (91.8%), with the main benefit to the restaurant being the price and quality of the food.
Nearly 65% of restaurateurs (the fewest out of the six countries but still a high percentage), saw no obstacles in promoting balanced nutrition in their restaurants. The main issues raised being time and no perceived demand from customers.
The results from Belgium indicate that the employees surveyed preferred having home cooked food at lunchtime. The small numbers that go out to lunch mostly chose establishments offering a quick meal. Therefore, lack of time that was mentioned by a third of the respondents could be one of the reasons for this phenomenon.
A very large percentage of Belgian restaurateurs reported to be using local produce in their cooking. More of them need to be encouraged to promote other aspects of balanced food in their restaurants. Offering balanced nutrition would become important to restaurants only following demand from their customers.
These results indicate that the Belgian partners need to encourage employees to frequent local restaurants and to demand healthy balanced food to encourage restaurants to make changes to the food they offer.