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The Way to Employees’ Hearts May Well Be Through Their Stomachs

Food fuels innovation, and keeps employees happy to boot.

Most employees look forward to the proverbial lunch bell. In addition to providing a much-needed respite and providing the energy for completing the day’s work, lunchtime gives them a chance to bond.

Nothing brings colleagues together more than breaking bread with one another, whether in the break room or outside on a sunny day. CEOs have finally started to take notice, and the demand for kitchens in offices, for team building and aesthetic appeal, has risen exponentially.

Over the last decade as business models have evolved, the rapport that comes from employees’ sharing a meal has gained more attention. Food and meals have steadily become an integral part of many companies’ cultures. Kitchens as well as break rooms and cafeterias are appearing in companies from small to large.

Some companies are embracing creative ways to incorporate food into all aspects of their culture. In addition to the occasional breakfast or lunch meeting, many companies have made events revolving around food a central part of their brand. This means that when they look for office space, business owners insist that the space be equipped with a kitchen or allow for build-outs so that one may be added.

Food as a Focus

Tech startups seem to have embraced the idea that food is the fastest way to employees’ hearts. Today Google provides employees with free meals and kitchens stocked with snacks. Employees are also encouraged to request new menu items. Twitter’s San Francisco employees have breakfast and lunch catered each day. And other growing tech companies are following the same playbook, even if they start on a smaller scale. Ask.com for example, provides breakfast once a week, while Eventbrite.com provides unlimited snacks.

My company, Hughes Marino, provides weekly grocery delivery and keeps an abundance of snacks on hand in its Orange County and San Diego offices. Provide Commerce, the parent company to Shari’s Berries, ProFlowers and RedEnvelope, also puts the focus on food when it comes to keeping employees happy. It arranges for food trucks and catered meals to reward hardworking staff during the busiest times of year. Similarly, forward-thinking San Diego based Digital Telepathy, a creative tech company, brings in chefs to cook lunch for their team on Mondays and Wednesdays.

The Future

No matter how large or small a business may be, food as a fundamental part of a company’s brand certainly looks to be the way of the future. There’s no denying that meals allow for a break in business formalities and let employees get to know one another in a more personal way so they can work together more efficiently and effectively. I predict that, within a few years, most companies will have full kitchens and probably at least some employer-sponsored food plan or incentive as the new generation of workers demands greater work-life balance.

But those just getting a company off the ground or without a budget for large-scale efforts can still get started now. Try stocking the cafeteria or break room with beverages and healthy snacks, including salad and sandwich fixings, along with fresh fruit. Invest in an espresso machine. Or try what Overit.com has done, which is as simple as pizza Fridays. Any way you slice it, employees will appreciate such efforts and healthy, satisfied employees are productive employees.

Tucker Hughes is managing director at Hughes Marino, a global corporate real estate advisory firm that exclusively represents tenants and buyers. As head of Hughes Marino’s Orange County and Los Angeles offices, Tucker specializes in tenant representation and building purchases throughout Southern California. Tucker makes frequent media appearances to speak on the future of commercial real estate, and is also a regular columnist for Entrepreneur.com. Contact Tucker at 1-844-662-6635 or tucker@hughesmarino.com.

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