The Power of Food

If we want to transform our organisation and perform at the next level we need to examine all avenues.  The power of food is worthy of investigation.  As we move towards more austere times any action needs to be justified.  It might be a nice idea to have free fruit or an assortment of tea and coffee available for your valued employees but does the investment result in greater output or just heavier personnel?
Some years ago we did some research.  We had a contract to deliver 25 events across Yorkshire and the Humber in the UK.  Each was to an audience of about 50 business people to encourage them to give long term unemployed people a period of work trial.  The events were to include our presentation followed by lunch.  The objective was to encourage the employers to request a follow up meeting with our client’s advisers.  At the end of each day we would check to find how successful the event had been, asking how many people had expressed interest in a follow up meeting.  We also began to rate the buffet as we were visiting so many different venues.  It quickly became apparent that our buffet scores were highest where there was a dessert offered (particularly if it involved chocolate).  We then noticed a direct correlation between dessert and the employer visits requested.
  1. Buffet rating categories:
  2. Poor buffet, no dessert
  3. Poor buffet with dessert
  4. Poor buffet with chocolate dessert
  5. Good buffet, no dessert
  6. Good buffet with dessert
  7. Good buffet with chocolate dessert

After 2,500 participants had experienced the event we found that chocolate dessert doubled the take up rate.  Ever since, I have taken an interest in the link between hospitality and event outcomes.  Even at a recent conference we organised for Health workers with the theme of improving health in the population, where a range of fruit was available all day, it was the lack of biscuits which spoilt the experience for some participants.
Even though food is more readily available these days and our colleagues are more likely to over consume than be starving, it is still an important motivator. So, should we have a great canteen, free fruit, biscuits at meetings and the like? 
To arrive at the answer you need to know whether this will help achieve your objectives.  At its crudest, does £5 spent on bourbons give more than £5 return in improved productivity?  If you have a pampered workforce then it probably doesn’t, the law of diminishing returns sets in and custard crèmes at every turn will have little effect.
What you are looking for is something that makes people feel special, valued, a reward, a sign of your appreciation. So long as it is also chocolaty you can’t go wrong!