Why Order Lunch?
It’s noon, and feeding time at the OK Corral…or that’s what it feels like at this time every single day at the office. The mood changes. The collective body’s stomach rumbles and everyone’s thoughts turn to FOOD! Work speeds up then churns to a stop as employees leave the building for 60-90 minute lunches grinding all productivity to a halt. When food is brought in, a catering company usually brings in way too much food wasting money and staff’s time packing it up and storing excessive leftovers that go the fridge never to return creating repugnant science experiments. What a waste! Does food as the quintessential millennium perk make a difference, is it worth it?
Stop the Madness!
Even the most efficient reception staff dreads lunchtime. Employees dash out for a “quick bite” and waste half their lunch hour en route. Others order in. Deliveries arrive with email alerts and someone – the front desk person – needs to coordinate the melee.
Fortunately the times are changing. Enough is enough. Digital tools have inspired the tech savvy, and some companies have taken it upon themselves to develop solutions that streamline and automate the food ordering process.1 Entrepreneurial food delivery companies are popping up across the country to answer the need to service the workplace, and the feedback is overwhelming. It seems that a relatively low-cost perk may well be the key to a happy, productive workforce.
So, yes, technology can indeed bring sanity to the lunch hour, free up the receptionists to handle the front desk and allow employees to enjoy their entire break. Ordering food in for meetings, client visits and special occasions is no longer an onerous task requiring the skill and patience of a professional event planner. It doesn’t have to feel like herding cats to figure out lunch orders!
Restaurant and delivery options can also be customized. Tracking food costs and working within a defined budget means no costly surprises at the end of the month. With a flexible billing system based on accounting needs, a dynamic, busy company can take advantage of one of the least costly, most effective workplace benefits available.2 Additionally, the delivery time can be coordinated so lunch comes at noon eliminating time waiting in line, ordering, and waiting for lunch. foodjunky.com allows for coordinating a group meal by inviting others, or ordering items for yourself, and takes care of everything after checkout. The last minute meetings where everyone wants something different no longer has to involve chasing down people for their preferences.
Free Food! The Perfect Perk
Early startups created the model for efficient online home food ordering, and this has laid the groundwork for the workplace-centric delivery companies like foodjunky.com to come into their own. Free food programs were revolutionary and helped set the gold standard for the workplace and food. Delicious, full-meal service provided by high class chefs and available at anytime – snacks an arm’s reach away – it was the single most popular, most talked about feature of working for Google. Not excitement of working for one of the most famous tech companies in the world. Not the thrill of being chosen in a ridiculously competitive culture – No. It was the thought of 24-hour free meals that inspired the envy of American workers.
Studies have shown that free food at work is one of the more attractive perks that an employer can offer. In a recent study of 1,000 office workers by the Peapod, it was found that although 57% of full-time employees report they are happy, or extremely happy in their jobs, the number increases to 67% among those who receive free food and are used to well stocked cupboards and refrigerators.3 For employers, this relatively low cost benefit has been proven to have an outsized impact on morale.
Regular perks are great, but it’s also beneficial to create surprise rewards like a pizza party after a job well done, or a special meal for a great month.4 foodjunky.com not only enables easy, regular catering, but also makes it easy to order last minute surprise rewards for a job well done from a broad range of restaurants. Having a work-centric focus helps foodjunky.com cater events for an entire office, smaller groups, feeding everyone everyday or special one-time events.
And surprisingly, healthy food options and a variety of choices are highly valued. More than 80% of employees agree that options such as fruit, vegetables, yogurt, low-calorie snacks are a “huge perk.”5 Not surprisingly, the workers are right. Healthy foods, especially fruits and vegetables, consumed throughout the day keep our minds sharp. A paper in the British Journal of Health Psychology concludes… “The more fruits and vegetables people consume (up to seven portions), the happier, more engaged and more creative they tend to be.” Improved memory and enhanced mood were also noted.6 The technology available to enable food ordering easily creates the opportunity to make these healthy choices.
While free food at work is an extremely popular workplace benefit, it is far from commonplace. Currently, 55% of companies surveyed provide their employees with beverages (coffee, tea, or hot cocoa) while only 16% provide snacks, treats, food, meals, or lunch.7
Millennial workers between the ages of 18 and 34 make up the majority of today’s workforce and employers who value them would do well to consider adding a meal plan to their benefit package. They are young, active, and three times as likely to see the value in house snacks and meals as are older workers. For those companies looking to attract a younger staff, it’s important to know that, for many, food at work is being viewed as the new normal. More than 48% reported that the availability of food at work was a significant factor in making a decision about accepting a new job.8
Millennials are also a group for whom workplace benefits have not always been readily available. While 43% of Gen Xers and Boomers receive employer based health and or dental insurance, only 20% report report food as a perk. Millennials, on the other hand, are less likely to have medical coverage (29%) and dental coverage (22%) while 35% receive free meals and or snacks at work. In uncertain, leaner times concrete benefits are often viewed as more attractive than more valuable benefits simply because the later are less immediate and perceived to be relatively “intangible,” or with the advent of the ACA, either available or not.9 It’s a sign of the times that in a recent Jobvite survey 35% of Millennial workers have stated that they would prefer food over a 401K, medical or dental insurance.10
Food and Social Capital
For employers looking to capitalize on the creative buzz and interactive energy that comes with a young, committed staff, or for those concerned about a cliquish office environment, food is a time tested social lubricant. It’s a great way to put work related problems into perspective, and refocus in an informal, less structured setting.
Isolation, or even “siloing” in small homogenous groups can destroy corporate culture. Team building exercises can feel forced and are then ineffective. However, something as simple and relatively inexpensive as providing food and comfortable communal spaces where people gravitate toward naturally present opportunities for people to get to know each other.
As well, organized social events where employees eat together can be great photo opportunities to create buzz on your social media channels. When the competition is fierce to attract and retain the best talent, it’s important to have a way to convey your company’s excellent work culture to those considering job offers. It’s also a great way to distribute internal company communications through fliers, or information displays, and an opportunity to listen to employees.
There is a natural tendency to relax and relate to others on a more personal level when people eat together. Meetings are more well attended, friendships are cemented, trust is built, conversations are spontaneous and insightful. Bringing departments together over mealtimes can help build camaraderie between contentious, even competitive teams. When asked about the value of food at work, workers mentioned that increased friendship was one of the most valuable effects. When relationships improve, the entire company benefits from increased collaboration, improved communications, and overall improved business output.
Bring Food to the Negotiating Table
While the value of food in strengthening social ties is well known, one of the more surprising findings is the role food can play at the negotiating table. Bringing lunch to a client to discuss an impending deal is common practice so researchers have tested this seemingly intuitive practice and found that it has merit.
In a series of studies by Lakshmi Balachandra and reported in the Harvard Business Review, a significant increase was found in measured profitability when negotiations were conducted in a setting that served food. Balachandra states:
“The students who ate together while negotiating — either at a restaurant or over food brought into a business conference room — created significantly increased profits compared to those who negotiated without dining. (Individuals who negotiated in restaurants created 12% greater profits and those who negotiated over food in a conference room created 11% greater profits.) This suggests that eating while deciding important matters offers profitable, measurable benefits through mutually productive discussions.” 11
To further test his theory, Balachandra asked his subjects to work together assembling a puzzle while negotiating to see if this camaraderie building exercise would yield similar results. The puzzle exercise did not come anywhere near yielding the positive results of food sharing. In this instance, there was no difference between the group that put together the puzzle and those that only negotiated the deal. (He believes there may be some correlation between the positive effects that rising glucose levels has on self control, regulating prejudice and aggressive behaviors – or that eating together promotes mimicking behaviors and leads to more positive social interactions.) Whatever the reason, the implications of the social effects of communal eating is not to be taken lightly.
Happiness as Strategy
A recent poll of 1,200 employees working in companies of 20 employees or more asking how they felt about free meals and snacks in the workplace:
- 60% said free food would make them feel more valued and appreciated
- 50+% said a free lunch would strongly influence their decision to accept a job offer
- 60% said such free lunches would encourage them to dine with their colleagues
- 33% said free food at meetings would entice them to attend optional meetings 12
But is the happiness of your employees really that important? Is it really the job of management to “coddle” their workers? Perhaps it’s just good business. Consider these insightful findings:
- Happy salespeople make 37% more sales
- Happy employees are 12% more productive
- Employees who are happy at work take 10X fewer sick days
- Companies with happy employees outperform the competition by 20%
- 36% of employees would give up $5,000 a year in salary to be happier at work 13
So how does the cost of feeding an entire staff meals, snacks, and beverages affect a company’s bottom line? If time is money, then providing employees with meals pays very well. Workers who eat in office save 30 minutes of time per employee five days a week – for 50 weeks a year. That adds up to 125 hours of downtime avoided or the equivalent of approximately three weeks of full-time work. The real dollar savings for high salary workers – such as engineers who make almost $100 dollars an hour ($150,000 per year and almost $200,000 with benefits) can represent a savings of $20 an hour for a $10 a day outlay for food.
It’s also been noted that businesses that spend $1 on employee health and wellness programs can expect a $3.27 reduction in healthcare costs.14 Proven increases in productivity related to increased focus and improved well being are harder to quantify, but the results are evident over time.
Increased productivity, fewer sick days, higher sales, less downtime, more employee referrals, happier, more loyal employees– all of these outcomes have been attributed to results of research regarding the introduction of free food into the workplace. However, it should be noted that happy workers are not placated by food alone. The results of these studies are more than likely highly influenced by the fact that they take place in companies in which management is responsive to their workers needs.
Humans equate being fed with being cared for. Food as a millenium perk is actually a perk for everyone. Employees who are happy, well nourished, connected, and feel respected, not neglected are more creative, make better decisions, close more deals, and make a substantial contribution to a company’s bottom line. Therefore those companies that create a employee-centric workplace with a culture that focuses on health, well-being, collaboration and communication is bound to benefit greatly. Choosing technology platforms like foodjunky.com for your business put into place faster, more efficient methods to make ordering and catering a painless process and ensure the details are taken care of.