Companies even in traditional sectors increasingly find themselves competing to make the most inviting corporate culture possible, and food has found its way into that battle.
In Adam Lashinksky’s book, Inside Apple, he revealed a "shocker" to prototypical Silicon Valley startups.
Apple does not provide free food while their neighbors Google and Facebook are known for the abundance of quality snacks and meals.
For startups, small business and corporations, it is crucial to define the company’s vision and establish values, especially in terms of company culture. An enterprise that wants to leverage complimentary meals and snacks as an employee morale booster should know a few things.
“The only thing worse than not having a food program is having a failing food program,” says Christine Marcus, founder, and CEO of Alchemista. “Many companies are providing food that is less than healthy, lacks in selection, and doesn’t highlight the city that employees work in. That can be detrimental.”
As an authority in the corporate catering world, I went to Marcus to find out a few ways businesses can properly implement food programs that effectively elevate company culture.
Related Article: Make It Great: Company Culture Tips From the Best Places to Work
Today’s office workplace is ever evolving. The schedule of nine to five is becoming scarce and a standard one-hour lunch break somewhat irrelevant. Employees are eating from their desk or skipping lunch altogether to leave work early. So in a more unstructured corporate environment, how do employers facilitate networking, collaboration, and friendships in the workplace? A simple answer: you feed people.
The catch? Companies must provide food that employees are seeking the new Thai restaurant or the vegan spot that has everyone buzzing. “Furthermore, with these meals should come an experience,” says Marcus. The days of Bagel Fridays or hosting a Pizza Party are overplayed. Especially in a health-conscious company, the simple, cheap foods do nothing to promote productivity and employee wellbeing.
Businesses need to get creative and think outside the cafeteria. Marcus suggests hosting a Kombucha Bar on Fridays. Start the week off right with an Omelet Station every Monday. Or have a Juicing Corner where employees can make their own fresh juice.
Related Article: The 10 Best Ways To Build Company Culture
Diminish the Silo Mentality
While many offices still have siloed quarters, cubicles and different company departments on different floors, businesses that use food to create an experience will bring these employees together. As described by Business Dictionary, Silo Mentality refers to a mindset present in some companies when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company.
This type of mentality will reduce the efficiency of the overall operation, reduce morale, and may contribute to the demise of a productive company culture. Furthermore, as described by Marcus, facilitating these uncommon connections spurs productivity and creativity.
“Food has been used as a catalyst for conversation for hundreds of years, now it’s about creating experiences that appeal to a diverse group and bringing people together to keep employees engaged.”Breaking bread with those you may not have spoken with otherwise opens the lines of communication for a more collaborative workforce and expedited problem-solving.
Meet Workforce Demands
With competition like Twitter and Facebook, recruiting can be difficult, especially for startups. “There is an industry standard for companies striving to echo the Google-esque company culture and they need to find creative ways to attract this talent,” explains Marcus. “But it doesn’t always have to be lavish company trips or huge financial stipends; it can be as simple and easy as surprising employees with live chef-prepared Sundae Station or an afternoon Craft Juice Bar.”
According to a new survey by grocery delivery service Peapod, companies that provide free food have happier employees compared with those who don't get to chow down on their employer's dime.
Overall, creating an experience around food is one of the easiest things a company can do to increase employee morale and elevate company culture. When it comes to employee perks, few things are as simple and gratifying as free, innovative, locally-sourced food.