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The way to employees’ hearts is through their stomachs

January 19, 2016

By George Brown, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Check your total rewards program.  Does it include food?  Internet grocer Peapod thinks it should. The company recently surveyed over 1,000 office workers and concluded that employers that provide free food and drink as a daily perk have happier employees than those who do not.

Specifically, the survey found that more than half (56%) of full-time office workers are “extremely” or “very” happy with their jobs. But fully two-thirds (67%) of those who work in companies that provide the free food-and-drink perk are “extremely” or “very” happy with their jobs.

Blame it on the Millennials, which should not be a surprise. Compared to their Gen X and Baby Boomer counterparts, it is the Millennials who want to work for companies that provide free snacks at work. And don’t forget that Millennials already comprise the largest demographic in today’s workplace, so employers who want to compete successfully for talented people, and hold onto them once they hire them, need to take Millennials’ wants and needs seriously. Although it may not be just Millennials; in fact, nearly half of the workers surveyed (48%) said if they were looking for new jobs they would take into consideration the perks, including the availability of snacks, in evaluating a potential new employer.

All well and good, you may say, but who can afford the bill that comes with a food-and-drink perk? If you can’t, you are far from alone; in fact you are in the majority. Only 16% of employees surveyed by Peapod work for companies that offer the perk at no cost.

But fear not; the perk does not have to be free in order to be a perk. According to Joseph Hessling, CEO of ASE member firm 365 Retail Markets, “Free is great, but a nice variety is just as satisfying.” Enter the concept of the Micro-market. Briefly stated, a Micro-market provides packaged and fresh foods displayed on company property, not in vending machines but in open-air fashion. Employees still pay for their food/snacks, but “The Micro-market makes people’s lives at work more enjoyable,” says Hessling. “It more closely mirrors what they are used to in real life.”

Employers can run the Micro-market on a break-even basis or even as a profit center, allowing employees the opportunity to stay on site when they eat, find great and healthy food choices while they take their meal and snack breaks and continue to interact with their fellow employees.

What Hessling’s company does is offer technology and expertise that make the jump from old-fashioned, cash-only vending to cashless, digital, cloud-based smartphone apps that the typical Millennial employee is so comfortable using.

The Micro-market concept makes it possible for employers to turn their workplaces into food emporiums with unlimited varieties of both healthy and traditional snacks. It fits neatly into the mindset of what so many younger employees are looking for in a workplace—not just a place where the same people meet for eight hours a day when they are not living their “real” lives, but a place where there is a shared sense of purpose and a sense of community—a place where their real lives happen. Food fosters those values. “What we found universal is that food and beverages affect people at work,” says Hessling.

It’s a new world. But who doesn’t like food?

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