By Xavier Vigna
Prior to 1914, workers’ canteens were rare. The First World War was a phase of accelerated development of this form of catering. These changes were due to the necessity of improving food supply: the population of workers to be fed had grown, and had also changed, with more women and foreigners, with different eating habits. The question of meal-taking at the workplace thus reveals critical contemporary issues of effort of production, social peace, and reform of labor conditions (for which minister Albert Thomas, in particular, had great hopes). The number of canteens increased considerably. The cooperative initiative to manage restaurants, canteens and sometimes supply stores was important, but in this respect, employers overwhelmingly dominated this kind of initiative. Workers seemed satisfied with such an offer. Nevertheless, they only haphazardly used such workplace restaurants, even though they were supposed to be an answer to problems of food supply and cost of living.