There's no such thing as a free lunch. That might be a basic business tenet, but more and more companies in recent years have discovered that free lunch can be good business. Glassdoor scanned through 375,000 company reviews and dug up the 10 firms that best feed their employees, which AOL Jobs has listed below.
Good free food isn't just a gimmick. Jamie Oliver made the point in his campaign for school lunch reform that feeding kids salty mystery meats fried in the shape of a foot might not be so good for their focus and productivity. In the workplace, last night's leftovers, vending machine snacks, and fast food pick-ups have a similar effect.
"Many studies show that eating healthier foods leads to more activity, more concentration, more energy and better overall health," says Glassdoor spokesman Scott Dobroski. Racing down to the nearby deli can also eat up time that might otherwise be spent chatting business with colleagues over fine in-house cuisine.
A free meal or two might also make your employees more chipper. And happiness translates into increased productivity, according to a 2009 study. "Depressed and sluggish employees simply look at the clock all day," notes Dobroski. In Glassdoor's database, the average "employee morale" is 3.1 on a 1 to 5 scale. The 10 best companies for food, on the other hand, had an average of 3.7.
A complimentary feast can be a great hook for young talent too, and particularly in Silicon Valley, where competition for engineers in fierce, fine daily dining can't hurt recruitment.
The top 10 companies for food are:
Employee morale: 4.4
Tender braised rabbit with muscatel, cinnamon and fresh cherries? Must be Spanish lunch day at Facebook! Like its tech "frenemy" Google, Facebook offers up meals and snacks free of charge to its employees, and any of their guests, at a quality that rivals some of San Francisco's best restaurants.
Josef Desimone, Facebook's "culinary overlord" in fact honed his skills at corporate cookery at Google.
"Amazing food," said one Facebook employee. "We get breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner served up by the best chefs around. Menus change daily and my favorite to date has been the Willy Wonka themed lunch menu. Sushi day is legit too."
No wonder job applicants are always invited for their interviews around lunchtime.
Employee morale: 4.2
"I've forgotten how to make my own lunch," said one software designer at the rainbow-hued internet powerhouse.
Google has set the bar for edible perks. The company has around 25 theme cafes at its Mountain View campus, offering up complimentary steak Milanese and zucchini-kale detox smoothies at a cost of around $7,500 per person, per year, estimated Business Insider.
The Googleplex is also planted with organic vegetables, free for the picking. It labels all of its food in traffic-light shades, according to nutrition: green (eat anytime), yellow (once in a while) and red (not often, please). And it prices food in its vending machines by fat content: A Lindt extra creamy chocolate bar: $1.50. Famous Amos chocolate-chip cookies: $4.55. Chiclets: free.
3. DreamWorks Animation
Employee morale: 4.2
When effects artist Kyle Maxwell emailed DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg that the company needed a panini machine, the media mogul said OK, and thanked the 25-year-old in the next meeting, reported CNN Money.
The creative spirit fostered at the birthplace of "Shrek," "Kung Fu Panda" and "Madacascar" applies even to its cuisine, which has "a focus on healthy and varies options," according to one employee.
4. Susquehanna International Group
Employee morale: 4.1
The global financial institution offers it employees free lunch daily with "many different healthy choices," according to one employee. Self-serve breakfast items are also available. This might be because Susquehanna, founded by a few college friends, has maintained an "innovative and forward thinking" collegial vibe.
Employee morale: 3.8
The world's largest professional network has carried on Silicon Valley's tradition of fine free eats. The food, one marketing employee remarks, is "unlimited."
Employee morale: 3.8
The company behind the popular travel website provides its employees with catered lunches. It's a "nice perk," said one software engineer. TripAdvisor also offers free snacks and beverages, and in the style of many startups, has no formal dress code and a wealth of other benefits.
Employee morale: 3.7
This financial data and software company provides free lunches four days a week, and has an open-stocked kitchen, which one systems engineer claims is "a good way to keep up morale and improve productivity at relatively low cost."
Employee morale: 3.1
Back in 1995, Michael Bloomberg told Fast Company magazine: "I want people to be well-fed and satisfied. I want them to be able to grab a cup of coffee with a colleague and hash things out. But most of all I want them to stay here. I don't want them leaving."
These days, employees at Bloomberg's financial data business get free continental breakfast daily, according to one employee, as well as complimentary snacks.
Employee morale: 2.8
"You can get lots of free T-shirts, free pizza and free beer," said one software engineer at the world's largest social network game developer. Zynga offers vegan cookies and coconut water as complimentary snacks, as well as free haircuts and reflexology sessions. This might be part of the reason that the creator of Farmville has a voluntary attrition rate of less than 1 percent, according to the Los Angeles Times.
10. Marvell Technology
Employee morale: 2.6
In reviews, most employees mention the company's cafeteria as one of the major pros. "The cafeteria serves great quality food that rivals food at Google," said one employee about the semiconductor company.
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