Free Lunches do Exist

Employee X explains why company-sponsored lunches are so valuable.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the March 2009 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

When people ask me what my favorite thing about my job is, I don't hesitate to answer: the free lunches. Yes, I completely love that I get a free lunch every day. In fact, at the very moment the company recruiter revealed this perk to me, I probably subconsciously decided to accept this job offer over other higher salaried offers. Sure, it defies logic, but my stomach has a mind of its own.

The most obvious benefit to these free lunches is the money that stays in my pocket. I'd say the average lunch at my office would cost about $8. That would come out to $40 per week, or more than $2,000 per year. That's a nice chunk of change to stash away (or spend) at the end of the year.

Another not-so-obvious benefit to providing free daily lunches is the team bonding it creates. Most of us rush to the kitchen at the same time to get our food and then sit together in the cafeteria or at tables outside the office. It really is an easy way to get to know each other or vent frustrations and solve work problems in an informal setting.

Although the free lunches are hyped as a desirable employee benefit, I realize our company doesn't do this simply to be nice. In fact, the company probably saves just as much money providing lunch for me as I do. If all employees were to go out for lunch, I bet the average lunch hour would be more like an hour and a half. Add to that the amount of time before lunch spent chatting with co-workers about where to eat and the time spent after lunch settling back into work mode, and going out to lunch may cost our employer an extra hour of lost productivity per employee. Also, it's not uncommon for me to work through my lunch hour while eating at my desk during busy times.

One drawback for the company in providing free lunches is that we're totally spoiled. If the company ever decided to follow in Google New York's footsteps and cut back the free food perk, employee morale would probably drop. I'd figure the company wasn't doing so well and wonder what it would cut next. I'd probably be kind of bummed, but not bummed enough to want to leave the company. Sure, I'd miss the ribs, honey walnut shrimp, fresh salads and fruits, and trays of brownies. But just thinking back to the hundreds of free meals I've already eaten makes me feel fondly about my company--and that's the kind of goodwill I'm sure employers crave.

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