Will Work for Food

Trend Whisperer, A blog by Sherri Scheck-Merrill

Perks are perks unless you are Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, who recently unveiled a number of fascinating employee incentives. However, it was one specific and relatively simple offering that received the most enthusiasm from her employees:  free food!  Cool food perks in the workplace is this week’s trend and we’re going to take a look at several examples.

Google lunchLet’s start with Google, the tech giant based in Northern California with 70 offices in more than 40 countries. Known not only for their unique buildings and work spaces, Google is also renowned for their food offerings which are typically free.

Google keeps local seasonal menu’s at all of their Cafes and they do so to the tune of roughly 50,000 new menu’s annually. They also hire some serious Chefs from entities such as the U.S. Olympic Basketball Team, a three-star NY Times-lauded Chef out of the highly regarded NY eatery, Nick & Toni’s, and award winners from the Culinary Institute of America. That’s not all. Google also tends to their own on-site gardens and beehives while handling the cooking for nearly 2 million pounds of meat each year.

In Google’s Venice, California offices, the culinary team feeds over 500 Googlers a daily complimentary breakfast, lunch and dinner with a rotating menu that changes every 24 hours.  Micro kitchens are stocked with products sourced from growers never more than 200 miles away.  In Google’s Childcare Centers, children actually grow their own food and at their New York City office, guest Chefs frequently speak and plan a signature menu that day for the staff to enjoy.

Shoe distributor Zappos recently took over the old Las Vegas City Hall building outfitting it with a 12,000 square foot Z-Bistro where workers can pick-up complimentary grilled cheese sandwiches, fruit and trail mix from a do-it-yourself trail mix bar. They also serve a $3.00 hot breakfast, $2.00 pizzas and $5.00 monster burgers!  But if you still prefer snack machines, their machines dispense items for only a quarter.Lunch_UrbanOutfitters

Another interesting idea from McMurry, a Phoenix, Arizona based content marketing firm, is strategically placed minibars around it’s offices with inexpensive meals, fresh fruit, 20 different beverages, organic bars, etc.  The staff pays for their food based on an honor system where they can use a Square mobile payment device to pay on-the-spot or request an estimated amount to be deducted from their payroll check. Below average costs range from $0.25 cents for a bottle of water to a chicken teriyaki bowl at $1.75. The company also offers “Free Food Fridays” and a full-catered lunch once a month.

NetApp, based in Sunnyvale, California, hosts an annual event called “Share Your Lunch” where employees buy a $10 lunch served by their executives in the company’s cafeteria with the full donation going to the Second Harvest Food Bank. NetApp also hosts a monthly Friday Beer Bash in most of its offices, where hundreds of employees socialize and enjoy beer, often from local breweries, with complimentary food, ping-pong and pool.

Culinary farmA software company, SAS Institute Inc., based in Cary, North Carolina, purchased a one-acre sustainable farm, The Culinary Farm, which cultivates produce for all four of its company cafeterias. The Chef’s meet with the culinary farmer prior to each season to determine which crops to plant for their menus. They recently added a dedicated greenhouse. Employees can also order leftovers from the company kitchen to take home for dinner or for personal events, including deli trays, personalized cookies, pizzas, marinated pork loins, flank steaks and soups.

Twice monthly, Lexington, MA based Vista Print invites food trucks to dish out free benefits while stock firm, the Future Advisor,  has altogether skipped on-site catering and instead buys its employees groceries to cover three meals.  And finally, a company by the name of Big Ass Fans incorporates a weekly dinner for employees and their significant others hosted by management as their corporate food perk.lunch at work

Whether it’s catered meals, in-house Chefs, or creative giveaways and events, these savvy firms have included meals as a way to attract and keep the best and brightest employees on board. To paraphrase a well-known saying:  The way to an employee’s heart may very well be through the stomach, and that may have new meaning after all.

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DSC01025Sherri Scheck-Merrill is a hospitality industry professional with a passion for excellent hotels and resorts. She is passionate about hotels, interior design, fashion, and beauty. As Vice President of Amenity Services Inc., she focuses on hotel business development and guestroom product design. She distinguishes herself by researching, teaching and reporting U.S. trends for her own fashion and export business.

She is a three-time nominee for Businesswoman of the Year by California’s Orange County Business Journal. A UNLV student-athlete/Harvard Executive Education Consumer Marketing graduate, she licenses popular retail brands for hotel guestrooms.

After spending several years on a tennis court, followed by the role of head buyer at the largest West Coast-based sporting goods and fashion apparel export company, her knack for predicting trends landed her a columnist position at Orange Coast Magazine. She is also the author of the biannual trend-forecasting report for a major retailer in Osaka, Japan, and writes a popular blog about trends for Hotels – the magazine of the worldwide hotel industry.


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  1. It’s true! My husband used to work for Google and he had free acess to their snack room filled with tasty goodies as well as a paid for gourmet lunch each day. Not only was being fed well a major perk of the job, it helped with our food budget and freed up some extra dollars since he was basically was eating lunch and snacks at work. Sadly he doesn’t work for Google anymore and he now has to eat the mediocre sandwiches I make him each day.

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