Food: The Great Unifier

Manna from the cafes, courtesy canny employers

Whether it’s the naming ceremony of a newborn, or the wake of a dear one; whether an inauguration, celebration or closure post mortem; whether it’s a gathering of protestors or a party of peers of the land, one common facet of any event of humans is food. 

Food is what keeps us going, and to some events, the only thing that keeps us going. The reputation of bad food may keep us from going to a venue. There is a saying in Kannada that translates to, “At a wedding, the groom is interested in the bride, the bride in the groom, everyone else is interested in the food.” Do you remember the food at your own wedding? Probably not, but others will, if it was particularly good (or bad!)

Food as peacemaker, panacea and poison:

Food plays a unique role in our psyche as a species. The forgoing of food – whether voluntary or forced – is associated with all sorts of saintly connotations. It is an ancient practice that has become a health fad today. Binging on food has the opposite connotation. Languages are rife with food-related idioms. One popular one is ‘breaking bread with the enemy’ that signifies the onset of peace and a sense of closure.

Given these rich and hoary meanings associated with food, it is no wonder that employers across the globe use food as a ‘weapon of mass construction’ – a device to attract talent, retain employees and build great times.

Consider Googlers, who, like many Silicon Valley tech employees, get free food. It’s one of the great perks of working at the tech giant. Prior to the pandemic, the free food at Google HQ was the stuff of legend: 30 eateries, including multiple themed food trucks, exotic fusion cuisine, irresistible snacks – Google management sure knows their way to its employees’ hearts!

Post pandemic their famous buffets were scrapped and boxed meals and individually packed snacks appeared on the scene.

The buffets, we are told, are making a comeback. As are Googlers.

Culinary sparks to innovation:

Legend has it that Google co-founder Sergey Brin mandated that the company’s office be so designed that no employee is ever more than 200 feet away from food. Google’s then-Head of People Operations Laszlo Bock revealed in his bestselling book Work Rules that the idea of so many food stations and micro kitchens was to encourage casual, informal interactions and spark innovation. A delicious way to spark innovation, we must say, making the ‘Google 15’ a weighty reality for many Googlers!

Similar culinary tales dot the Silicon Valley landscape: Free gourmet restaurants at Facebook, subsidized menus at Apple, snacks on every floor at Twitter HQ, and at Airbnb beer and wine on tap! 

Free food, these companies seem to (rightly) hypothesize is an almost irresistible attraction for young, unattached engineers who’ll probably hang out at work longer when they don’t have to worry about prepping or making the next meal at home.

Closer home in India’s Silicon Valley Bangalore, Intuit India has some hip food courts styled after local hangout spots, offering everything from fresh fruit to filter coffee for hungry employees. Midsize companies often get food catered – sumptuous rice- and roti-laden multi-course affairs – so that employees can focus on their jobs with a sated stomach. 

Battling the hybrid work paradox:

As business leaders and office managers battle the ‘hybrid work paradox’ – employees hunger for more in-person interaction, but hesitate to brave commute traffic and return to daily work-from-office – food may turn out to the great unifier that brings the hordes back to the office cubes. The pandemic had put paid to many cafeterias and eateries surrounding Sarjapur Road, but all signs now point to a slow return to a new normal: albeit with staggered cafeteria timings, boxed lunch options and limits on in-cafe dining. Food, indeed, is leading the way back to normalcy.

At Clearly Blue, we’ve firmly believed that the way to employees’ hearts is strictly through their stomachs. Some employees have complained that they have gained weight after joining CB. Besides the de rigueur coffee and tea, the pantry is stacked with snacks of the healthy and not-so-healthy varieties. The team is known to take many a Friday afternoon off to sample the delights of local eateries. Team offsites inevitably are centered around taking in the sights and smells of new hangouts in South Bangalore. 

Perhaps the eating out and snacking in was what most of us missed during the enforced pandemic lockdowns and work-from-homes. The limp back to normalcy has started, however: our recent annual get-together at the Mango Mist offsite was memorable, as was the food on offer. 

With a team of foodies, what else does one expect?!

I guess you’ve realized my idea.


Lure them in with food.

The smell of freshly baked pizza, the aroma of a dum biriyani or even the promise of ice cream with gulab jamun. All of these sprinkled with good conversation will surely do the trick.

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