Google Fuels Innovation

The Lempert Report
July 24, 2015

Why does Google really offer employees free food?

If you know anyone who works at Google, you've probably heard of their free food policy. Similar to other company perks, likeonsite haircuts, complimentary laundry, yoga classes, Google, like a few other forward thinking companies (Facebook, Bloomberg) offer free food stations for their employees. 

According to a recent Forbes article, cofounder Sergey Brin once said “No one should be more than 200 feet away from food.”  While many may take a jaded response to this, noting that companies offer food just so employees don't need to leave the building, others have a slightly more optimistic explanation saying such perks keep employees happy, and happy workers are good workers. 

But for Google, the real reason is something entirely different.  It's actually to promote conversation and innovative thinking. Forbes highlights Laszlo Bock, the Senior Vice President of People Operations who explains in his book Work Rules: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead, that in actual fact, the purpose of the cafes is to create a place for employees to leave their desk and interact with others. Bock points out that these food sources are pointedly placed between different groups, with the goal of bringing employees from different teams together. Forbes quotes him as saying, “At minimum, they might have a great conversation. And maybe they’ll hit on an idea for our users that hasn’t been though of yet.”

While the day to day operations of supermarkets may differ from a company such as Google, the idea of taking care of and inspiring your employees is equally valid.  Why can't supermarkets offer food for their employees too? And in a supermarket setting it provides several benefits. For starters it encourages, as with Google, a community atmosphere. People gather and talk and work ideas may develop. But for supermarkets it could also help develop an interest and knowledge about the food they are selling.

From prepared food sections to new products, or produce, employees who know what they're selling are not only more enthusiastic about their work but can be of genuine help to shoppers. To take it a step further supermarkets could even offer information on ingredients and nutritional tips on different kind of food being offered so employees begin to build a knowledge base that can inspire and assist consumers. As with Google, free food does more than keep people in the building and more than make employees happy. It encourages conversation, ideas and learning, investing in your employees this way can certainly provide an inspired workforce.