Small Business Strategies to Start a Corporate Lunch Program

Last Updated: 

September 28, 2023

With retention being a challenge, small businesses are ready to go the extra mile for employee engagement. After all, retention requires more than a competitive pay package and employment benefits. You need to offer compelling perks to make people stick around and give their best. Free meals are an excellent way to engage your team and enhance retention.

According to a Cornell University study, encouraging people to eat meals together may boost their productivity. Further, it builds camaraderie and nurtures a positive work culture within an organisation. While this study dates back to 2015, nothing has changed in this context. Employee engagement with creative perks is even more crucial post-pandemic times when hybrid work is the new normal.

As a small business owner, you may have some qualms regarding the expense of an employee meal program. While it may cost a bit, consider it a long-term investment for your employer brand. Additionally, a little creativity is all you need to run it on a budget.

Here are a few effective strategies to launch a corporate lunch program for your small business. 

Key Takeaways on Starting a Corporate Lunch Program

  1. Employee Engagement and Retention: Small businesses can boost employee engagement and retention by offering perks like free meals.
  2. Benefits of Dining Together: Studies suggest that shared meals can enhance productivity, build camaraderie, and nurture a positive work culture.
  3. Investment in Employer Brand: While a corporate lunch program may incur costs, it's a long-term investment in your employer brand.
  4. Research Your Industry: Analyse the cost and benefits of employee meal programs in businesses of similar size and niche to create a plan for your business.
  5. Diverse Menu Options: Success lies in offering diverse menu choices to cater to different preferences, including vegan, salads, and gluten-free options.
  6. Facilitate Online Ordering: Implementing an online ordering and delivery system offers convenience, reduces commuting time, and boosts employee loyalty.
  7. Spread the Word: Promote your corporate meal program to attract potential candidates and build a positive employer brand.
  8. Cost-Effective Approach: A strategic approach can help maximise the benefits of a meal program while keeping costs in check.
  9. Long-Term Value: Providing free meals can contribute to employee satisfaction and loyalty, making it a valuable investment for small businesses.
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Research the Industry

Before spending on a free lunch program, you may want to know how it serves value. That’s how small business owners think, as they want to spend each dollar wisely. Gallup reports that employee engagement in the US is constantly falling, dropping from 36% in 2020 to 34% in 2021 and 32% in 2022. The numbers spell trouble for businesses looking to retain people for the long haul.

An employee meal program is an attractive perk when it comes to boosting engagement and retention. Check other businesses of the same size and in your niche to get insights into the cost and benefits of a free meal initiative. Analyse the benefits it delivers to them to create a plan for your business. 

Offer Diverse Menu Options

The success of a corporate lunch program boils down to offering diverse menu options to match different preferences and palates. A team lunch group order becomes attractive when people find vegan, salads, and gluten-free choices. Your employees will appreciate the effort to personalise the menu according to their expectations.

CaterCow cites another key benefit of personalisation of employee meals for small businesses. It prevents waste because people are more likely to finish the meals until the last bite. At the same time, you should ensure the availability of extra food for last-minute guests. A foolproof program is the best investment for a small business. 

Facilitate Online Ordering and Delivery

Statistics suggest that more than 112 million  Americans use a food delivery service. Nearly 60% of consumers order delivery at least once a week. Implementing an online ordering and delivery system is a wise move for small businesses looking to start a corporate free meal initiative. It cuts the hassle and mess of running an in-house kitchen. Employees love the convenience of individual labelled meal packs.

Implement an efficient ordering system and a seamless delivery service to run the program efficiently. Meals should be labelled with critical details such as employee names, food components, and specific dietary restrictions. With these labels, your team members can find what's theirs and leave what’s not.

With online delivery, employees don’t have to commute for meals. It saves time, money, and stress, translating into better job performance and greater employee loyalty. 

Spread the Word

A corporate meal program is a considerable investment for a small business with a growing team. Think beyond leveraging it for employee engagement and retention. You can actually use it to foster your employer brand by spreading the word. When potential candidates know that you have this perk for them, they will have a good reason to join your organisation.

All you have to do is promote the initiative to attract the best candidates and win the talent race. You can do it through social media posts and ask employees to make a noise through their individual accounts. Showcase it on your website for extra visibility because candidates always check company websites before accepting job offers.

Wrapping Up

Small business owners shouldn’t see free meals as a budget-burner. These creative freebies can contribute to your employer's brand and employee satisfaction in the long run. Giving your employees an extra perk in the form of food can win their hearts.

The good thing is that a strategic approach can help you make the most of the initiative by maximising the benefits at a minimal cost. Follow these actionable tips to launch a corporate meal program that offers real value to your business. 

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