Why Free Food Isn’t Really About Food at All

2016-12-01T19:13:37+00:00August 30th, 2016|Workplace Design, Wellbeing, Productivity|

Entrepreneurs looking to foster startup culture know a thing or two about great perks like free food. Hoping their “if you build it, they will come” attitude will draw talented rock stars, they splurge on organic treats and beer on tap. But much like families who eat dinner together at home, founders know that food provides more than nourishment: it’s a reason to connect.

Here’s what (free) food is really about:

  1. Relationships: It’s not the act of eating that builds relationships but the time spent together. When phones are put away during lunchtime and breaks, people participate in honest, unfiltered, face-to-face interactions that help foster friendships and camaraderie. The relationships you build at work keep you engaged and make your job more meaningful and enjoyable.
  2. Trust: Solid relationships require trust. Trust makes people feel safe, supported and encouraged. Gallup explains that close relationships in the workplace point “to the issue of trust between coworkers. When groups are deeply engaged, employees believe that their coworkers will help them during times of stress and challenge.” Learning to trust others starts with relationships.
  3. Collaboration: Long project meetings benefit from an atmosphere of fun — and adding food is a great way to relax, get creative and propel collaboration. Whether discussing a project over lunch, offering free treats for group participation or using food to encourage mingling (think slow-brewed coffee vs. Keurig), food gets people together and thinking.
  4. Creativity: While there’s certainly no silver bullet when it comes to creativity, science proves that some food actually does make a difference. MedicalDaily.com reports 5 foods that can boast making a measurable impact on creativity: fruit, alcohol, chocolate, carbohydrates and walnuts. Integrating these foods into your break room may propel your team creatively.

Keep in mind that as great as free food is, it can’t compensate for dismal office culture or a lackluster team. Award-winning companies like Vanderbloemen Search Group point out that, “fancy job perks can’t keep Millennials happy.” The bottom line is that workers want to be trusted, empowered and part of something that matters. Creating a culture that delivers on those themes will do more to attract and retain than those who do not — regardless of how much organic goodness you provide.