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Jason Waite

Company Culture: At what staff number is it worth to provide daily "free" lunch or dinner for your employees?

Asked 1 week ago by in Community Discussion

I am the Recreation and Events Golf Manager for a course in Orlando. Part of my responsibility is overseeing the Clubhouse's food and beverage team. We have always offered our staff 50% off a meal if they are working that day, and 20% off a meal if they come in to eat on their own time. We only staff about 20 people (including both back of the house and front of the house) in the clubhouse. With the spotlight on "company culture", should we be providing additional benefits like free meals to our employees?

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  19 Answers

9

Laura Rose

Laura Rose 1 week ago, Edited 1 week ago

I think it's very generous that you offer your staff discounts off meals. In my experience, when salaried employees work "over-time" (evenings during the week, or weekend hours over lunch) - the company provides free meals to the employees during those "over and above" hours. This was in recognition for helping out in a moment of crisis or in a critical client situation.

Thankyou card and restaurant gift certificates (or meal gift certificates to their entire family) can also be given as a performance award to celebrate outstanding accomplishments or outstanding performances. This provides a nice thank-you to their entire family. We often need to acknowledge that there's an entire family involved that allows the employee to work those extra hours and/or provide that excellent performance. Thanking their entire family is also a nice show of overall appreciation.

I hope this helps.

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6

Mike Van Horn

Mike Van Horn 1 week ago

My wife is an HR consultant for a number of private clubs that have food and beverage service. I asked her this question. She says all the clubs provide meals to their employees. Usually there is an employee break room or dining room separate from the member dining area. The employees do not pay for the meals, but these are taxable benefits. Thus a small amount ($3.75 per day in her case) is charged to them but refunded. It's called an "in and out charge."

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James Bishop
James Bishop  Great point on the taxability!
1 week ago

6

Linda F. Williams

Linda F. Williams 1 week ago

That would depend on your costs and a consideration of the financial point at which the expense becomes a drain on available resources. In my opinion, the discounts currently provided are great cultural and morale boosters. As it stands, the employee bears part of the cost of this convenience. It's a win-win for all involved.

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4

Edward Shelby   MBA

Edward Shelby MBA 1 week ago

This is a good question for team discussions. Including questions on what inspires team engagement in delivering quality service to the clubs customers and members. What opportunities do they see that improves membership and excites customers? Employee engagement is a great measure for a return on investing in your people.
Building great teams is the greatest challenge of true leaders. Watching a great team exceed expectations is the best reward a leader can enjoy.

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4

Kunal Bhat

Kunal Bhat 1 week ago

Dear Jason,
You're already doing great with the current scheme. However, if you are seriously pondering free meals, make them free when a staff member works extra hours. I think that'd be a fair reward for the effort (s)he's putting in.

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4

Tom Kobelt

Tom Kobelt 1 week ago, Edited 1 week ago

Since the question started with company culture. I would address that first and costs second. What are the core values of the organization? Does offering free meals reinforce those values? Are you trying to emulate other organizations' practices without reflecting on what the core values are that reflect those practices? Google may have great free meals and tables bunched together so people can interact in informal settings. You have 20 staff not 20,000.

If it is food that you are selling then you want your staff to be totally invested in the food. If it is the dining experience you are selling then the 20% could be increased so your staff come with their family and friends to engage in the experience like your clients. From participating in the food or the dining experience your staff should be able to come up with more ideas on how to improve the total organization experience.

The culture is the soil in which the ideas will give birth and grow. Giving free meals may be nice; however, if you want a solid return on your investment look at the current culture of the organization. If the culture of the organization values the input of their staff and clients I would posit the answer to your question is much closer than you think.

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4

Mark Weaver

Mark Weaver 1 week ago

I'm originally from Orlando (go UCF)! There isn't a right answer to this because of the word "should." You want to build your own unique culture, not based on what some other organization does, but on what defines your organization (your mission, values, norms, intollerables...). And you need to see how whatever you provide fits in the context of the business case for it. Finally, it's ideal to involve employees in the decisions about all that somehow (focus groups, task f, orces, staff meeting...). Inclusion in decisions impacting work are more motivating than what the decisions are about - in other words, the process can create more buy-in than the perks. If you just give people stuff to keep them happy, you can create an entitlement mentality rather than one of ownership. You want the latter. So I guess my best answer is you should whenever the decision to fits with your business realities, fits with what you want your culture to be, and fits within your teams' understanding of why they'd get free meals. Keep in mind there are tax consequences too, so you may want to check with your CPA. There are other benefits you can provide tax-free that could get you more bang for your buck.

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4

Marilee Driscoll

Marilee Driscoll 1 week ago

Hmmm. You wrote: With the spotlight on "company culture", should we be providing additional benefits like free meals to our employees?

Start with defining exactly what your company culture is. What's your mission statement - and what are the tenets of it?

How does the existing discount structure support your mission? If it doesn't, consider a change.

Another, perhaps most important question is: what policy changes make sense to support our mission statement - and the culture that we want?

I would ask you to answer the question strategically: why is a change to the food discount policy being considered? If you need to do it to stay competitive, that may be a very good reason. If you're looking to increase food volume to qualify for discounts from providers, that might be a good reason. If your employees are complaining about the current policy, that might be a good reason...if it is valued employees...if not, might be a good reason to NOT make a change (wink).

Hope this helps. Food for thought - LOL!

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3

Rick Polson

Rick Polson 1 week ago

I don't think that the free meal will improve your culture. A 50% discount is a huge benefit. I would run a simple survey of the employees about the benefits currently given and what they want to make them better. Include the free meal as a choice and see what the response to the question is. Everyone has an opinion on this and the answers will vary greatly.

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3

James Bishop

James Bishop 1 week ago

A 50% off allows for a la carte ordering where employees appreciate what they are getting and there is no waste. (I will take two lobsters please!)

I did work one place that allowed a cook in the kitchen to cook lunch for the lunch crew and it was never from the menu (might have also been just before the wait staff arrived). That was special, but if you didn't want it, then you paid.

As Rick said, I am not sure it improves culture, but I know some restaurants give you a free meal with your shift (in limits) but again, not sure that's culture.

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3

Caroline Robertson MCIPD CAHRI

Caroline Robertson MCIPD CAHRI 1 week ago

I think this is a great incentive however It is important to think about costs too. What you are already providing is very good. As a suggestion you could offer one free lunch per month.

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3

Sunil Agarkar

Sunil Agarkar 1 week ago

Dear Jason, What is a core business of your Organisation? selling food or selling golf course facility? if selling food (like restaurant) then not a bad idea of giving free food to staff; but if not then following questions should be considered:
- whether local law provides for?
- what is a purpose that i want to give free food, what will i achieve by doing so?
- will my customer accept my staff sitting besides them and having food?
- even at present your cost is dynamic. out of 20 say if 5 person eat costly food item and 5 person eat cheap food item and balance eat average cost food item you are giving different benefits to all; i.e. if you add this cost of benefit given to staff in Cost To Company your benefit ratio will differ.
- people eating costly food item daily may spoil their health and ultimately they will give less output. i would have put maximum monthly cost limit.
- family coupon (with maximum cost limit) would really boost morale of family and in turn of staff.
- but regular assessment of the facility given by is a must, if the facility is not giving desired result it is better to stop.
- your company culture has to be service culture for attracting golf course members.
- if geographical and or social reason is that providing food (free or paid) is going to increase service quality only then giving food to staff should be thought of.
- company culture is relevant to the vision of the entrepreneur and not connected to number of staff.

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3

Tom Fox

Tom Fox 1 week ago

I wouldn't suggest settling for a simple answer to a complicated question. Obviously food is an available commodity to provide value to employees, demonstrate a "family" culture but your actions in the specific need first have a soul in the broader picture. Why are you "rewarding?" Retention? Culture of caring? Competitive labor market. You are looking too narrowly without first stepping back and identifying your values, your needs, your wants and then your gives can have value. People get used to any benefit and entitlement creeps into restaurants faster than you could imagine. Set your targets and goals to have meaning and connection to your benefits and culture the specifics will only be details.

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3

Jack Arnold

Jack Arnold 1 week ago

Your employees have a good thing going. I consult in the manufacturing sect, free lunches are when you work holidays weekends, or when working long shifts. It also went along with tee shirts, mugs, etc for promo use (company name).
The culture is yours to do as you will, just make sure it is noticed as a great gesture and not obligatory (must-do) on your part.

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2

Berry Enloe

Berry Enloe 1 week ago

They are already robbing you blind, don't give them license to do it. Because once one meal is free every meal will be. However I do think a 50% discount any day outside of four peak hours would be nice.

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2

Robert Bob Cox Jr

Robert Bob Cox Jr 1 week ago

Only on special occasions..... Usually money is more important since once the meals become free they might forget how much it costs you the company...And then still want more money-----although offering a 50% discount seems adequate to me...

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2

Marina Shevchenko

Marina Shevchenko 1 week ago

i don't appreciate free food or with discounts from work. tastes differ, and often i don't like the food served, as for me, nice salary is better than this sort of "care"/"corporate culture" or whatever else it's called)))

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2

Tosca Johnson

Tosca Johnson 1 week ago

Are you trying to be like start-ups that feed their employees at work?

What is this really all about. I agree no one can give you a great answer with just the information provided. Does the extra expense make sense against the bottom line?

How are employees currently using or speaking about the discounts in place?

To test this you could do a short term trial run and then look at the data.

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