How to Provide the One Perk That All Employees Crave

The way to your employees' hearts is through their stomachs. Here are 5 ways to provide healthy meals in your workplace.
July 23, 2013

Offering meals to employees is a truly wonderful perk. When you consider cost and calories, it’s tough on you and your employees to eat out every day. And let’s face it, sometimes waking up early to make lunch isn’t how we want to spend our mornings.

Yet businesses often struggle to offer meals as part of an employee benefits package. Employees want lunches that are healthy and delicious, and they complain about the menu variety. It's nearly impossible to make everyone happy.

So how can companies offer a great benefit at a good price, and with a terrific selection of healthy offerings? We've gathered up five benefits of providing employee meals, as well as companies that serve up tasty, corporate world food.

Build Relationships

Many of us sit in front of our computers all day, plugged into another world and ignoring our colleagues. Until lunch time, that is. Taking the time to break bread builds a more connected work environment, and that's never a bad thing.

Alex Lorton, co-founder of, likes to think of it as building community at a common table. “We love the concept of developing and reinforcing company culture through exceptional food. We enable employers to not only feed their employees but feed them well. When you provide varied, quality lunches, you are conveying appreciation. You’re fueling your staff with the best so they can continue to deliver their very best.” curates meals from the best food trucks, chefs and restaurants, and delivers them to your office, making team meals delicious and effortless. Employees use a dashboard where they can rate meals and leave comments–-feedback that considers for future orders.

Save Time

How many times have we heard the old cliché “time is money”? Without all the planning, shopping and cooking, having food delivered to the office saves you time–-and therefore money.

Zalmi Duchman, chairman of the board at The Fresh Diet, says most people pay more for a cup of coffee than a meal at The Fresh Diet. “Our meals are prepared fresh. Not frozen or vacuum-packed. Meals are calorie- and portion-controlled using the finest ingredients, taking the guesswork out of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. All that is left for you to do is eat and enjoy.”

Customers register either online or by phone, and pick a plan ranging from one to four weeks. There are more than hundreds of meal choices, and they can schedule for specific delivery days.

Improve Health

Both companies and employees want to maintain a healthy lifestyle. That’s not just exercise, but also diet. Some companies make healthy meals a part of their wellness program and subsidize those meals for their employees.

Hilton Davis, CEO of Diet-to-Go, says the company works with HR departments to offer meal plans directly to employees at discounted prices. “Having our nutritious and delicious meals delivered to the office can foster an attitude of nutritional awareness, while teaching the basics of balanced nutrition and reasonable portion sizes. They also help deter employees from making poor meal choices and help them easily maintain a regular schedule of healthy eating, which in turn helps with weight control and improved overall health.”

Increase Break Room Options

Some businesses just don’t have the budget to offer full employee meals on a regular basis, or employees work irregular hours and want grab-and-go meals. That doesn’t mean employees wouldn't appreciate a selection of non-fried items. One solution is a mini-convenience store with fresh sandwiches, salads, yogurt parfaits, string cheese and meal options found in a deli-style atmosphere.

Elyssa Allahyar, vice president of sales and marketing for Avanti Markets Inc., says many companies choose to install a market concept since it’s free to the employer. “Imagine replacing your dull traditional vending machines in your workplace break room with a mini-convenience store style concept." Employees can shop, read nutritional information on all packaging, and use a self-checkout kiosk to select their payment method.

In the past, vending machines were seen as a last-resort food option with limited offerings. But Dan Stearns with Wyndham Vacation Ownership says he likes the market concept. “Avanti has had a positive effect on every part of our business-–in fact, it has become the top item in keeping our employees happy and encouraging them to stay.”

Boost Employee Productivity

Some days it seems like everything that’s unhealthy is on the dollar menu, so offering employees healthy options at reasonable prices is key.

Company Kitchen provides a wide variety of food and beverages for employees who want more choices-–and healthier options–-at a self-serve market that Company Kitchen supplies on a regular basis. Employees pay by scanning a stored-value "CK card." Employers can use the store as an employee benefit or incentive platform by adding value to their employees’ cards each week or upon completion of certain achievements.

After purchases, the card also downloads the item's nutritional information so employees can track their eating habits and hopefully achieve their health and wellness goals.

Jim Mitchell, president of Company Kitchen, says he’s been told by HR leaders that they improve employee satisfaction and employee productivity. “Employees are more satisfied because they have more choice in food and healthier options at any time of the day or night, without having to go out for a meal. Because employees stay on site for meals and snacks, it is an efficient use of their time, allowing them to be more productive.”

Having a healthy workforce benefits the company in so many ways, improving employee morale, productivity and health insurance costs. Dealing with exercise is only half of the equation. Fortunately, there are some delicious options for the second half.

Read more articles on offering company benefits.

Photo: Getty Images