How to Engage Your Team Through Food

You know how they say, “happy wife, happy life”? Well, at Chewse we say “the happiest teams eat like family.” It’s an important part of our company’s culture to enjoy meals together as a team, which we believe fosters a sense of community within our organization. But this type of community isn’t reserved simply for companies that work with food! In fact, we’ve included 5 easy ways of how you can improve your team engagement through food, too.

Pro tip: having a cowbell, gong or triangle present to get the attention of the room for announcements is handy.

Skipping meals lowers productivity

For starters, we think it’s important to mention that encouraging everyone in your company to take breaks is important. In fact, studies have proven that skipping meals can lower productivity. Setting up a way for your employees to gather together, unplug from their screens, and get a little human contact can make a huge difference in their output levels and enjoyment at work.

Room design is key

Tracy Lawrence, our CEO, was bullied in school. In fact, the bullying got so bad that she often found herself eating alone in the bathroom, protected from her classmates, but shut off and alone. Chewse serves family-style meals to help companies create a sense of community so that no one eats alone.

Family-style meals are only part of the battle, though. You’ll also want to create an environment in your break room that encourages conversation and team engagement. Round tables or long dining tables with seating on both sides are the most ideal for this effect. You’ll also want to limit the amount of 2 person tables and single-person bar seating so that employees are sitting, facing one another.

Break the ice

Shared meals are a great opportunity for team engagement and an even better way to promote cross-department communication. This isn’t a surprise to most people. What we do hear often, though, is something along the lines of, “That’s great, Chewse, but what do you do to get people talking?”.

We’re glad you asked! Sometimes, you’ll need to help break the ice with some getting-to-know-you activities. At Chewse, we host what we call the Lunch Time Challenge during our team meals. Last week our challenge was to find someone else in the room that was born on the same day of the week as you. Then sit next to that person for lunch and share your weekend plans with them.

Another idea would be to leave icebreaker/conversation starter cards on the tables. The goal is to ask non-work related questions, which encourages employees to engage with one another on a personal level. Not only are these conversations more fun; they also foster an authentic connection between the people on your team.

Not a huge icebreaker fan? Scheduled company meals can also be a great platform for announcements and company-wide meetings

Company meetings can be boring so we suggest setting the tone with a fun fact or joke. When we introduce new staff to the team at company meetings we share one thing about that person that no one knows. Better yet, have the department heads present a fun fact about themselves so everyone can get to know them.

What’s on your plate?

Did you know that food is a form of expression? Think about what happens when you eat at a buffet with a group of people and return to the table with your assorted plate of goodies. People often ask, “What’s on your plate?”.

Build your own meal bars are a great way to get people talking, especially about the foods they selected for their plate. Our Meal Coordinators are experts at building meal bars, so whether it’s an Asian-inspired Locavore Bowl bar from Green Tiffin or a choice between Cochinita Pibil, tofu, Nopales and Pollo Asado from Habanero’s taco bar, we guarantee you won’t be disappointed.  

Shake things up a bit!

Plan some unexpected breaks throughout the month and mix things up! At the Chewse office, we have happy hour Fridays where everyone stops working at 4:30 pm and spends the rest of the workday knee deep in team engagement (while also, you know, enjoying some happy hour drinks and snacks).

Hey, you could even start a company tradition! On Fridays, we also implemented what we call “attitudes of gratitude.” Here’s how it goes: a stack of index cards are placed on a table and people are asked to write “thank you’s” to anyone they might be grateful to that week. 

After about 10 minutes of writing, people are asked to approach each individual they wrote a note to and vocalize their thank you directly to that person, which is then followed by a high-five or a hug (personal preference). Afterward, the whole company comes together in a big circle and has the opportunity to share a thank you in front of the whole group, after which we join in on a team hug.

What can we say? We’re big on showing the love here at Chewse.