Lunch Provided=Happy Workers

There’s an old saying, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and while that may be true, it seems that is exactly what employees crave.  Providing food for your employees is an easy way to attract and retain great talent. Whether you decide to provide snacks, cater lunch or create a cafeteria food as a perk is a big consideration.

Lunch Provided: Happy WorkersHappiness

There is a lot of buzz about employee engagement and happiness, and what it means for your company.  There are studies and stats, but what is the common denominator, is there one simple thing you can do?    Peapod, a grocery delivery service, conducted a study to find out.  initially, they engaged in the study due to a change in ordering, they saw a large increase in the number of corporate clients and they wondered why. “While the majority, 56%, of full-time employees are ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ happy with their current job, that number jumps to 67% among those who have access to free food, the survey of more than 1,000 full-time office workers found. Though just 16% of employees said they get free snacks and treats at work.  Employees say the presence of snacks and the availability of free meals fosters a more collaborative atmosphere and sense of fun.”


Free food might be even more beneficial if you have Millennials in your office or are trying to attract them.  “Millennials were the most likely to cite free snacks as an important job perk. And workplaces that employ large numbers of Millennials, such as startups, are more likely to have food on-site. For new economy companies that seek to make the workplace a home-away-from-home, where employees socialize as well as work, a well-stocked kitchen makes employees more appreciative of the office and pushes them to mingle over food with coworkers.”  Millennials are often drawn to overall compensation packages as opposed to just salary so if you offer perks, such as free lunches or snacks, be sure to include that in your job description or culture description on your careers page. Free food is not only great for engagement but it can also increase productivity.  If employees need an afternoon pick me up, they can head over to the cafeteria instead of leaving the office.  This supports comradery in the office and less time away from their desk means more work can be accomplished.


Ordering lunch for your entire office or even your team can seem daunting; there are preferences, dietary restrictions, and pricing to worry about, but recognizing these hassles many sites have come up with easy ways to please everyone.  Sites like ZeroCater, Zesty, or EAT Club, make company catering a breeze for any budget, preference, or size.  Each site has a slightly different angle, providing customized meals, individual lunches, or just healthy snacks for the office.  Check them out to see what works for you.

“Free” Lunch

Of course, as the saying goes, there is no such thing as a free lunch, and the IRS agrees.  As employees, free food sounds like a great benefit, and the IRS thinks it should be considered just that.  The IRS argues that free food should be looked at as part of our compensation package, included in with our other benefits, and taxed as such.  Because it would be near impossible to calculate the amount of food a single person eats at the office in order to tax them individually it is the employer who pays the price, in addition to the price of the food.  With the potential tax risk, the question becomes is it worth it?  Would “free food” provide a large enough uptick in your engagement, longevity, productivity, and overall attractiveness to get an ROI?

A number of cities such as Mountain View and San Francisco are now banning the building of onsite cafeterias. The hope is that local restaurants will benefit financially from employees who eat off-campus. Companies that already have an onsite cafeteria are exempt.

No matter what size your company or budget is, there are easy ways to increase engagement and happiness in your business.  Maybe start with simple snacks like fresh fruit and see what the reaction is, or ask!  Ask employees if they would appreciate snacks or meals and what their preferences are.


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