Why Feeding Your Staff Could Be the Best Employee Retention Plan Ever


When free coffee hit the office, it was the best thing since jams and jellies. But when work began providing snacks, lunches, and treats here and there- it tied over more employees through rough company patches than any other tactic. 

  • 70% of the workforce is actively or passively engaged.
  • 41% of employees understand what defines their business against competitors.
  • Companies like Ross, Google, and Amazon have some the highest turnover with the average employee staying between 10months-1.2years. Lowest turnover companies include, Kodak, Xerox, and General Motors.
  • One study for women found that 42% would leave their job for increased compensation, 35% to develop new skills or competencies, and 33% to pursue greater advancement opportunities. The same study for men found that 51% would leave for increased compensation, 32% to accept a new opportunity promising development for skills and competencies, and 30% to pursue greater advancement opportunities. 

Specific Form of Unfairness Experienced % Who left workplace

Public humiliation-14.8%

Passed over for a promotion-14.9%

Being compared to a terrorist-18.8%

Being asked to attend more recruiting or community related events-15.6%

Bullied on the job-13.5%

Having your identity mistaken-12.7%

Unwelcome questions about skin, hair, or ethnic attire-12.8%

Everyone knows you make more money when you make your employees happy. So why are 59% of employees sitting around twiddling their thumbs, not knowing why their organization is different from all the others? In this article, we will blame incentive. My personal belief is at least 1/3 is to blame poor hiring practices, however that’s a discussion for another time. Food makes the stomach churn, the tastebuds dance, the nose perk, the body warm and happy. It’s reliable, consistent, and takes care of a basic need in tough economic times. So when you consider providing regular lunch for staff, consider these reasons:

Productivity. Employees who stay onsite for lunch are more likely to eat faster, spend less time walking to and from lunch, in couple with catching up with coworkers, and may possibly eat while working. Do not discount the importance of regular breaks from work, but those breaks are better spent in small chunks. Taking an hour for lunch is more than one person needs everyday. By offering lunch onsite, you give the option to stick close and get back to work faster. Typically if an employee can take a 20-30minute break for lunch and if they have an untaken 30-40min remaining, they are happy to leave early- but feel fair about it because they had a short lunch but were rewarded for their efforts because it was provided for them. Staff who have busy personal lives will especially appreciate this, as this is one less thing off their plate, literally, when it comes to self care. One less thing they need to worry about, and feel bad about spending money on when they realize they forgot to brown bag it.

Retention. When you offer free lunch, you are giving your employees a bonus because they will spend less money on meals every month. When recruiters approach your employees, or your competition tries to steal them away, they will start asking if free lunch is offered. Since most companies do not offer free lunch, you’ll find your employees are less likely to leave. Retention is a huge cost saver to your company, even if you only keep an employee for an extra six months.

Tax Benefits. Both you and the employee will benefit from your free lunches. Consult your accountant first, but in most cases buying your staff lunch is a tax deduction for your company.

Talent Acquisition. Even in today’s market, finding and hiring the best talent is a challenge. Giving your hiring manager as many perks as possible will increase your chances of snagging hot prospects. The faster you hire the best employees, the more productive and profitable your company will be.

Stronger Teams. Instead of wandering off on their own, employees who eat in one central location tend to spend more time getting to know one another. This brings them closer together, strengthens your teams and boosts your company culture. By offering free lunch, you help facilitate conversations and team building. Because food is personal, your employees will feel that more initiative is being taken towards their care, well-being, and keeps them bonded with their coworkers and surroundings.

Can’t Afford Lunches at Work? No problem. As an HR professional, I advocate for my workers well-being regularly. A part of that is when I go to Starbucks and request a portion of their weekly donations go to my hard working staff, or when I go to Chapters and ask them for coupons and gift cards at Christmas, don’t forget Subway, Quizno’s, Safeway, and your local restaurants. All to often they have vouchers for me to give to my staff so everyone gets a minimum of 4 free meals a month, and that doesn’t include gift cards we receive from Ardene’s, Reitman’s, Shoppers Drug Mart, and more. In addition to this, I hit the local flower shops and ask them for their disposed flowers, the one’s that have minor imperfections that they throw out because they can’t make a full sale on them. Then I make bouquets with a couple volunteers like reception or another manager, and we make flower arrangements for the office and other employees. When people care, it’s amazing how it impacts the office environment.



7 thoughts on “Why Feeding Your Staff Could Be the Best Employee Retention Plan Ever

  1. The retail company i work at has so far provided us with free water, energy drinks, coffee, pizza, root beer, snacks, panera bread varieties, burgers, and that’s all i can think of at the moment. Best part is I’ve only been with them for just two months!

    • That’s awesome! I most recently had an encounter with the Monster Energy drinks people, who come around my office every now and then armed with fanny packs full of drinks. It continues to surprise me who donates to staff well-being (and I never even called these guys!) I think being fed is the the best creative benefit.

    • That is for sure one of the better teams to have. -people who want to make a difference. Cheers* to that. Ultimately though, after my rant, I think you bring a really good idea to this- you can feed someone all you want, but if their heart isn’t in it- it’s going to be down trodden from there.

  2. I spent a lot of my career as a technical specialist, and it was common for sales people to “wine and dine” me extravagantly to try to buy my good will and prompt attention for future emergencies.

    It was always successful. “Will work for bluefin pate and lobster!!” :D

    On the flip side, when those 80s days of plenty dried up and The Company decided it would no longer allow managers to provide donuts in meetings, well,… talk about bad morale! Seriously, how much can donuts hurt your bottom line? Talk about pound foolish and penny wise.

    • It’s really true. I find the thoughts on food provision at work tend to be polar opposites quite a bit. It’s either all or nothing. I remember one team meeting I had gone into at a job that boasted it’s crazy love for food in meetings. We would have smoked salmon sarnies, meat spreads, fresh breads, delicious fresh bakery goods, quality coffee, and lots of good cookies and cakes… well as we all continued to rotate as hosts (and I should note that the office always provided a budget for the food, so the host got to choose, but never had to pay), one worker would always bring in tap water in a jug and tell everyone that glasses were in the kitchen. What a shocker. This happened all the time. It was actually a downer. It was as though this person had no investment, interest, or passion for their office. I’m glad I’m the opposite! I always make sure my employees are well fed!

      • There were some business parties back in the 70s… The Company learned first-hand the perils of an all-night open bar. And the parties the vendors threw… wow! I will say this: the business world was a lot more fun back then!

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