Providing employees lunch…always a tricky subject

employee satisfaction

Photo by Adam Przewoski

Why? In the days of fad diets and just plain weird diets it can sure become complicated…do you need to be sure you’ve provided gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, low sugar meals?!  As someone who can’t eat red-meat I know how difficult it can be to attend lunch functions with coworkers and I know the flipside…trying to cater to different diets when planning a company function.  All that said, it’s disheartening to show up to a company lunch and find out there’s nothing you can eat.

For example, a former boss of mine bought lunch for everyone one afternoon…knowing I can’t eat any type of red meat, he ordered three pepperoni pizzas and a sausage one.  Not only did I feel left out, but I had to go spend my own money down the street and eat by myself while everyone else celebrated.

So what’s an employer or employee to do? In my way of thinking, it partly depends on your department or company size, and your budget.  You may not be able to cater to all of the changing dietary restrictions of your staff…but the appreciation you’ll feel from your employees with more common concerns may be worth the extra effort.

As an employer:

If you work in a fairly small company or department, be aware of some of the major food aversions some employees have.  While you may not be able to ask about people’s diets directly, maybe the event planner is aware that someone is vegetarian and someone else has a gluten-intolerance. If worst comes to worst and an employee doesn’t see anything they can eat, perhaps offer to pay to have something delivered from the restaurant that they can eat. Had my boss in the example above offered to get me a sandwich from the subway next door, I would’ve felt excluded.  When providing doughnuts to the company as congratulations perhaps also grab a fruit platter.

As an employee:

You don’t want to be the complainer who can never eat what’s served.  You’re probably used to running into this most of your life (barbecues with friends are always a little dicey for me). I’ve learned to provide my own meals for work functions if I know the menu won’t fit my restrictions. Going to a pizza place but you can’t have gluten? Find out if you can bring a salad, or ask your boss if it’s ok to hit the salad bar instead. Is the company Christmas lunch at a steak house but you don’t eat meat?  Once again, discreetly see if you can get a salad or another alternative.

Most people are accommodating if you’re willing to ask and sometimes the smallest tokens can make employees feel appreciated!

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