Why is free lunch so good for a company


I am in the process of trying to convince my boss to have catered lunches at work. The company is still in its scrappy startup phase so money is a little tight. I was wondering if anyone could point me to any studies or articles on the beneficent of free lunch at work, and if anyone could talk about if free lunches are a worthwhile perk for a small software company where the money is still a little tight.


asked Sep 18 '11 at 12:31
8 points
  • What do you want/expect/perceive the value to be? If you can't explain that then there is no reason to move forward with this. – Tim J 12 years ago
  • I'm really excited to answer this one, but man it's late, so I'll hit it in the morning. Looking forward to it. Great question, jmeed. – Ryan Chatterton 12 years ago

2 Answers


Joel Spolsky has a few good articles on the importance of employees eating together. Here's one of them.

answered Sep 19 '11 at 08:43
282 points


You might want to look at some studies in organizational behaviors.

I am not sure what book is available to you. Look for the chapter of "motivation".
Three theories are worth studying:

  • Expectancy theory
  • Incentive theory
  • Equity theory
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organizational_studies#Theories_and_models However, the literature does not answer your question directly. You have to apply the theory to your culture, context, company structure, etc.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is company paid lunch a norm at where you live?
  • Does free lunch help retaining key employees for company?
  • What does your competitor do?
  • Does it affect your company's profit margin?

At where I am(Canada), free lunch is very rare in small companies. Even in fast food restaurants, some require employee pay 1/2 price for food.

answered Sep 18 '11 at 13:28
141 points
  • The reason they require you to pay something (actually the cost of food but not its preparation) is because otherwise Revenue Canada would regard the free lunch as a taxable benefit. I've worked (in the UK) in companies where lunch was provided. Two arguments I've seen used are (1) it gets people to talk to each other and share ideas, and (2) people take shorter lunch breaks if they don't go out for lunch. (i.e. employer gets more hours of productive work for the same pay). – Mike 12 years ago
  • Yes, I agree with the arguments. Free lunch can improve employee relationship; therefore creates a bond between a person and workplace. If that could translate into productivity and loyalty, then it is good. It varies depends on the type of business, company cultural, management objective etc. Some companies may not want employees get too close to co-workers. There are just too many variables that has to apply the theory in a context. – Reed 12 years ago

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