By: Jesse Osborne
At ZeroCater, we provide team lunch for 100 employees across five cities Monday through Friday. Yesterday, an associate asked what would happen if it all went away.
Without realizing it, I said, “If we didn’t share lunch each day, I wouldn’t know half the people who work here.”
I was a ZeroCater client before I became a ZeroCater employee. I initially sought out the service—selfishly—as a way to keep my sales team in the office through the lunch hour. On average, my account executives were taking sixty-minute lunch breaks. I calculated I could gain back thirty minutes of their time with in-office lunch.
It worked. Better yet: The promise of continued team lunches turned out to be the best incentive offered since a tiered commission schedule.
What I used as a source of bribery for my sales team, other companies use to help fuel ideas. At Google, team lunches have lead to the launch of new products such as Gmail, as casual conversations lead to team collaboration. The ZeroCater headquarters is always at its loudest when lunch is served. Very rarely will you see dialogue happen so organically.
Starting a new job is intimidating. It does not matter how outgoing or personable you may be—the first day will push you out of your comfort zone. When I joined ZeroCater, I committed to building a revenue team where each individual felt welcome from day one. In the past month, my sales team grew by 21. On their first day, each sat down to lunch and jumped right into the conversation.
Over half the country says they stay at their place of employment because they like the people they work with. Just how valuable do you think these conversations are?
Cornell University recently surveyed teams of firefighters who ate meals together. The findings showed team meals not only helped the firefighters bond but improved team performance. I don’t want my team sharing meals so they’ll discuss current projects—that’s what meetings are for. I want to hear conversation surrounding their weekend plans or the big game, so when the time comes for two departments to align, the ice has already been broken.
Lunch is the only time you’ll see an intern sitting next to the CEO. It’s also the easiest way for directors to be on a first-name basis with individuals across multiple departments. What started as my attempt to squeeze a few extra cold calls out of my sales team, has turned into a community-building tool unmatched by anything I’ve previously tried.
Leave your PowerPoints, pitches, and business cards in the conference room—there are no titles at the lunch table.