GeoAccess, based in Overland Park, Kans., provides its workers with five fully stocked pantries and has lunch delivered every day. The payoff from having employees eat together is twofold, says Joy Weaver, the company's equivalent of a chief financial officer. (GeoAccess, which provides software and Internet services for the managed care industry, uses no titles.) "First, it keeps people in the office, available for phone calls, and second, it helps develop camaraderie." It also helps with recruiting. Weaver estimates that the company, which has 150 employees, feeds about 100 of them on any given day, at a cost of about $500 a day. The cost of snacks and beverages for the pantries probably adds about an additional $3,000 a month, she says.
If your company can't afford this kind of outlay, try more modest approaches to sharing meals. For example, Randy M. Pritzker, CEO of Omicron Systems and Omicron Consulting, in Philadelphia, knows it's hard for the head of a growing company to get to know all the new employees. So, every month or two, Pritzker meets his companies' newest hires for lunch. There he discusses the history and the philosophy of the businesses, which have combined sales of about $30 million. "This way they're more comfortable in the elevator and hallways because we're at least acquainted," he says.