A few weeks ago, we asked a couple of questions about free food. This time we did something a bit different. We asked for your thoughts both as an employee and on an organizational level. Because let’s face it, our views about free food could be completely different depending on what hat you’re wearing. Here are the results:
I did get some notes about this survey not being nearly detailed enough. I totally understand. My thought is that this survey wasn’t designed to be the absolute definitive word on food as a workplace perk. It was designed to start a conversation and I think it accomplished that. A few things I would suggest you explore a little deeper:
Employees like free food … when it’s done right. Not that we shouldn’t be eating nutritious good every day, but there’s an increased emphasis on being healthy. That includes eating healthy. Organizations that provide food to employees should be prepared to offer nutritious options, not simply the cheapest eats they can find.
Free food isn’t a substitute for competitive pay and good management. I didn’t interpret the responses as free snacks is a benefit that candidates talk about during their job search. Or that employees stay with a company because it offers free grub. Ultimately, employees want good pay, benefits, and managers.
Organizations need to be committed to free food. Providing free food to employees takes some effort and resources. It can be a thankless job. Companies offering free food must commit the time and budget toward making it happen. Otherwise, it could quickly move to the top of the employee complaint list.
Don’t forget the snacks! Companies that don’t plan to offer free meals to employees aren’t terrible employers. Employee snacks can be a huge workplace plus. But just like the other points above, they need to be healthy. And the organization should be committed to doing it well. A sad snack display is … well, sad.
In some industries, the idea of free food is a given. They have access and the means to providing meals. An example is the hotel industry – they buy food for guests, have kitchens and culinary teams, and a breakroom for employees to enjoy the meal. In other industries, providing free food could be more challenging because those things aren’t available.
If you’re exploring food as a perk, my suggestion would be to start a conversation like we did here. Find out if employees want free food. See if senior management will support it. Because once you start offering free food, it will be difficult to stop.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby after speaking at a corporate conference in Scottsdale, AZ11