(Originally published by This is Alabama on February 2, 2018)
Protective embraces holistic approach to wellness — even during lunch break
Sometime between 11am and 1pm, most of us take our lunch. We aspire to pause from our crazy workload for 30 minutes. That’s 1,800 precious seconds to fill our bellies and quiet our minds before we get right back to it.
At Protective Life Corporation, the mission has always been simple and straightforward when it comes to helping customers: Understand what people need and provide with a servant’s heart. This philosophy extends inwardly, too. From an onsite fitness center to a therapist on hand to help employees work through any emotional stresses, Protective aims to provide a holistic approach to wellness for every member of its team.
In October of 2017, Protective broadened this holistic approach to transform that much-needed lunch break into a true treat that benefits the palates and performances of employees. Bon Appétit Management Company, a leading onsite restaurant company providing café and catering services to corporations, universities, and specialty venues across the country, became the food service provider for Protective’s Birmingham campus. Since the company’s arrival in October, breakfast and lunch have become more highly anticipated than ever thanks to Bon Appétit’s dedication to serving delicious food with fresh, responsibly-sourced ingredients.
“Health has always been a major focus for Protective, and we’ve actually offered a wellness program to employees for over 40 years,” says Rich Bielen, Protective’s President and CEO. “Bon Appétit has a national reputation as one of the best providers in serving healthy, sustainable food options at affordable prices, and the response from employees has been incredibly positive. We’re thrilled to have them on our campus here in Birmingham.”
In addition to a commitment to providing locally-sourced ingredients and humanely raised meat and eggs, Bon Appétit provides a true culinary experience to Protective employees.
Jody Otts, Vice President and Chief Project Officer at Protective, was integral in securing Bon Appétit as the food service provider for the company. “Protective’s company philosophy dovetailed with Bon Appétit’s approach to food in every possible way, so it was a natural fit. With a creative, chef-driven style, they provide an intense focus on fresh, healthy options,” says Otts.
Bon Appétit offers a variety of “stations” with different styles of foods during lunch. According to Otts, one of the most popular among employees is the Kitchen Table station, which serves home-style items “lightened up” with fresh, good-for-you ingredients. At this station, entrees are made both with meat and without—a facet of Bon Appétit’s food service practice that not only respects and supports those with special diets, but also allows Protective employees to experience completely new ingredients.
“Our café has an incredible offering of fresh produce and classic dishes made in unique ways. For instance, the Kitchen Table station may offer chicken cacciatore alongside a vegetarian option—like a chickpea cacciatore,” says Otts. “It’s been such a benefit to our employees to be able to try these healthy, delicious foods.”
All of the offerings at the café are clearly identified. Gluten-free and vegetarian dishes are available each day, and those patronizing on their lunch break are served cafeteria-style by the Bon Appétit staff to assist with portion control. And while the offerings are healthy-savvy, everything is also expertly seasoned to create unique, crave-worthy flavors employees are simply raving about. Otts maintains that the carrot cake on the dessert bar is the very best he’s ever had.
The masterful quality to the dishes served at the Protective’s café can be attributed to Executive Chef Tim Delling. Chef Delling brings over a decade of cooking experience to the café, and with that experience comes a carefully cultivated culinary practice of treating food as nourishment for the body and soul. He draws inspiration for his dishes from what he finds interesting and delicious, stating, “Lately, I’ve been working to explore and create fascinating vegan options that even those with traditional diets can appreciate and enjoy. Typically, though, how I develop our menu is based on what I’ve discovered that I want to share with those who come to dine at the café.”
The holistic approach to wellness will soon expand even further. Yoga classes will be offered in the café as a means of providing peace and joy followed by refreshment during that critical lunch break. After the yoga session, Delling will offer freshly prepared green juices to replenish those bodies that have flexed and breathed and bent during the yoga lesson. For him, good food and wellness work in tandem—and both are pivotal to a healthy, happy individual.
“We get how challenging these people’s days can be,” says Chef Delling. “They work so hard, and we seek to be their oasis. Shake off your day’s stresses; be nourished; smile a little bit. My staff and I want to be here for you. Be here, taste delicious foods, and just be loved. We aspire to be the best 30 minutes of the work day.”