Should employees receive free food at work?

Would you be swayed to work for a company that offers freshly prepared food free of charge? How about a company that keeps snack-filled break rooms or one that opens its beer refrigerators for free cases to take home whenever sales quotas are met?

I thought so.

Wait, would you rather feel good about your work, have a boss that encourages you to try creative solutions, and who offers flexible work hours?

I’m pretty sure I know where Tim would land.

But how about you? It might not be as obvious as you’d think.

I want unlimited, free food at work.

reduced time wasted on hunting for food

It’s simple: Eat in the cafeteria and you’ll work more. It’s hard to beat the efficiency of staying on the company campus.

employees stay later

Sticking around to eat dinner encourages workers to work longer days.

With some companies, it goes like this: if you stay at work past, say, 7:00 p.m., you can order dinner to be sent to work and the company pays. Doing so probably means you’re also working an extra hour or two. So, a meal that cost $20, can lead to an extra hour or two of productivity. Depending on salary–if you’re worth $60 an hour? $100 an hour?–this is a pretty good return-on-investment.

chillin with employees

Eating with coworkers improves teamwork and morale (unless you chew with your mouth open; then you should stay at your desk).


Nothing like food to make employees feel loved.

millennials like to eat out

Millennials are the most likely generation to eat out.

They don’t like to clean up, they like to get together with friends to eat, they like to post Instagram pics of their food, and millennials are the largest living generation, and are extremely talented and valuable to the work force…so why not feed them? .

According to the International Food Information Council’s 2017 Food and Health Survey, 55 percent of millennials say convenience is a top driver when buying food, while baby boomers say taste matters more.

No more free food at work!

local businesses don’t benefit from free food at workplace

Mountain View, California has banned the construction of new workplace cafeterias that offer free food in order to help local retailers. San Francisco is considering a similar ban.

health concerns

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a study of 5,222 employees across the US. They found that the foods people get at work tend to contain high amounts of sodium and refined grains and very little whole grains and fruit. They conclude: Employees are consuming more calories at work than they should, and most is free, and much of it is unhealthy.

NOTE: Geek out on intrinsic versus extrinsic rewards here.

intrinsic reward: work for a purpose

Many employees feel that they are working for a paycheck and aren’t contributing to society.

Handing out free food as a motivator may not help them to find purpose in their work, and therefore might not be what they need to stay driven.

intrinsic reward: a need to be treated well

Employees want employers to be committed to their health, through things like gym memberships, meditation, and flexible scheduling.

What is the best way for a company to show it cares about its employees?

intrinsic reward: a need to be valued

Harvard Business Review writes: If a person’s motive for work is curiosity or an interest in experimentation, or finding purpose in their lives or personal potential–which are intrinsic motivators–then his or her performance increases as these needs are met.

Harvard Business Review Study

For their study, Harvard Business took over four (chain) stores for one year, then compared their performance with that of the other 750+ U.S. stores (of the same chain).

in the past

Previously, the stores focused on pressuring employees in order to drive their performance.

These phrases were common: “You need to get your team to try harder,” or “this is really not what we would expect from your store,” or “other stores are doing better.”

a new approach

Each store created an idea board that showed the challenges the store had to solve, along with possible solutions. In one store, a challenge was getting more foot traffic.

Employees could add their ideas to the board. They were also asked to choose an idea on the board and experiment with it.

Every person was expected to have at least one experiment going at all times. Each week, they reviewed the experiments without repercussion. With every experiment, something was learned–that was the message that was given.


Productivity (revenue divided by expense) increased by 20% in one year (there was a 9% average increase in revenue in the control group; customer satisfaction increased by 11% (the control group showed a decrease of 4%); and sales increased by 8% (the control group had a 2% increase).

Be the first to comment

Let's Talk