We’ll Buy You Lunch If …

I was reading about an interesting policy at a fairly progressive technology company based in a major city. They have about 400 employees or so and an interesting policy when it comes to buying their employees lunch. Quite simply, their policy is “we’ll buy you lunch if you eat with someone you’ve never gone to lunch with before.”

Since they are in a major city and are close to a whole bunch of places to eat, they encourage employees to go out and eat lunch. More importantly, though, they encourage employees to take another employees.

This policy (program is a better phrase, I think) is interesting because it introduces employees to each other. In a company with about 400 employees, an individual employee probably doesn’t know every other employee. This policy / program makes for a nice way to get to know other employees. You can go out to lunch with your friends for the first week or two, but eventually, if you want free lunches, you’ll have to start going out to lunch with people you don’t know.

The company makes the system easy by having a little page on their internal wiki where people can list what days they want to go out to lunch and if they need someone to go to lunch with. Employees can arrange it themselves or they can let the person who oversees the program (it is not their primary job, but something they do for part of their day) match them up. The company keeps track of who you’ve gone out to lunch with and will re-imburse employees for lunch (I think they pay like $20 per person, but you can obviously change this depending on what you’re comfortable with). It isn’t too complicated (it is for the most part on the honor system) and employees like the program.

This program is very much like the old time trick of putting a pizza or food spread next to the new guy’s desk. Doing so encourages other employees to go over, introduce themselves casually, and get to know their new co-worker. This works really well in smaller companies, but as companies grow, this becomes slightly more complicated. You can still do it for each department or team, but for the entire company, it’s hard to put a pizza next to the new guy’s desk and assume everyone will know where it is.

This program is a great culture and team builder. When employees know the people they’re working with, chances are they are going to be more productive and like their jobs more.

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6 Responses to “We’ll Buy You Lunch If …”

  1. Bemjamin Myhre said:

    Apr 21, 08 at 11:15 pm

    It would be interesting to see a company such as Microsoft implement this.

  2. Bill Gammell said:

    Apr 22, 08 at 3:11 pm

    I really like this idea. For some, it may be hard to get to know many people beyond the handful they work with each day. It might be awkward inviting a fellow employee out to lunch if you do not know them. But with a program, the potential for creepiness is greatly diminished. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Service Untitled said:

    Apr 22, 08 at 11:05 pm

    Benjamin: It would be. I am sure the system can be applied to bigger companies, but it seems to work really well in the mid-sized companies.

    Bill: Glad you found it enjoyable. The program definitely makes it a bit less awkward and more common to invite someone you don’t know out to lunch.

  4. Stark County Law Library Blog said:

    Apr 24, 08 at 10:26 am

    “We’ll Buy You Lunch If …”…

    From the blog: “I was reading about an interesting policy at a fairly progressive technology company based in a major…

  5. Robert Fligel said:

    Apr 30, 08 at 8:12 am

    I really like this idea. Such a great way to promote teamwork and keep morale up. In professional services firms, I think this is an excellent way to promote cross selling of the firm’s services simply by employees getting to know what others do.

    I do wonder what you would suggest if such a policy is implemented and very few participate?

  6. Service Untitled said:

    Apr 30, 08 at 5:05 pm


    Thanks for your comment. It could definitely work well in a professional services firm. If it isn’t working, that would be interesting. I’d just apply different twists – try dinners or other events that different teammates could do and that the company could sponsor.