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Should You Provide Food for Employees?

BySammi Caramela, writer
Jun 19, 2018
Image Credit: Image credit: Gaudi Lab/Shutterstock
> Business Basics

It's easier to treat a small workforce to a meal, but there are ways to feed large teams.

Free food in the workplace is an incentive that most employees can get behind. Yogurt and granola for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, coffee and tea available at all hours – what more can you ask for? (You know, aside from health insurance benefits and a 401k.)

However, free food isn't always easy to swing, especially depending on the size of your company. Jason Waite, recreation and events golf manager at Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge and community member, asked: "At what staff number is it worth to provide daily 'free' lunch or dinner for your employees?"

Our answer? While it's easier to treat a smaller number of employees to a meal, there are many ways to offer food, even if you have a sizeable workforce. Here's how.

Discounts and gift cards

If you're in the food business, you can offer discounts to your employees on or off the clock. If you aren't, purchase gift cards to your workers' favorite eateries.

Consider extending these incentives to your workers' families. Laura Rose, owner of Rose Coaching and community member, said that it's important to acknowledge the support system that allows your employees to work extra or late hours. These perks show that you care about your team as people, not just as workers.

Overtime rewards

Offering meals every day might not be doable for many businesses. However, using it as an incentive for hard work is a win-win situation. If a worker is willing to come in early or stay late, you should bring in or reimburse breakfast or dinner to compensate for their time.

"In my experience, when salaried employees work 'overtime' … the company provides free meals to the employees during those 'over and above' hours," said Rose. "This was in recognition for helping out in a moment of crisis or in a critical client situation."

Make it clear that you appreciate their hard work and dedication. Your employees will be willing to maintain this effort if you acknowledge it and demonstrate your gratitude for their work.

Office snacks

Instead of four-course meals, provide snacks for your workers to nosh on throughout the day. This is attainable for businesses of all sizes. You can lay out fruit and yogurts, stock granola bars or nuts, and make sure there are beverages available. (Pro tip: Coffee is just as important as water, no matter how jittery it makes your workers.)

Steven Benson, founder and CEO of Badger Maps, said that supplying free healthy snacks is especially effective at establishing a health-conscious work environment, which ultimately makes workers happier and more productive. When employees are nourishing their bodies with fuel, they're more energetic and alert, and ready to tackle their to-do lists.

However, sometimes we all need to splurge on a pick-me-up. Candy, cookies and chips, while not the best food choices, are great treats in moderation.

Company outings

Treat your team to outings or order catering for special occasions. Birthdays, promotions, new hires and anniversaries are all cause for celebration. The frequency of these company meals is up to you (and your budget), but there's no right or wrong. Not only will your employees appreciate the free meal, they'll have the chance to bond with their co-workers and connect with you in a casual setting.

Sammi Caramela
Sammi Caramela
See Sammi Caramela's Profile
Sammi Caramela has always loved words. When she isn't working as a and Business News Daily staff writer, she's writing (and furiously editing) her first novel, reading a YA book with a third cup of coffee, or attending local pop-punk concerts. Sammi loves hearing from readers - so don't hesitate to reach out! Check out her short stories in Night Light: Haunted Tales of Terror, which is sold on Amazon.
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