Food And Community: Lessons From Google

by | Oct 6, 2010

Photo by massless

The relationship between food and health is undeniable, and usually my favorite topic. But while health is essential, it rarely gets people excited. (At least not for very long.)

Food, however, is easy to get excited about. And the value of food in our lives extends greatly beyond its nutritional components.

While food provides nourishment, it also brings us pleasure and has a powerful impact on our relationships with other people–an attribute we often overlook. In an era where efficiency and individualism are a way of life, it is easy to forget that we have three opportunities each day to sit down and connect with someone over an intimate and enjoyable experience: our daily bread.

This lesson was not lost on Google.

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Tahoe Tech Talk, a forum where influential tech angel investors shared their insights and advice on new startups. One of my favorite talks was by Chris Sacca, former Head of Special Initiatives at Google. Sacca noted that Google’s now famous gourmet cafeteria was intended as more than a perk for talented employees, it was designed to foster collaboration.

Sitting down to a communal meal encourages mingling of both people and ideas. Employees from different departments that normally have little reason for interacting are more likely to strike up conversation while in line for lasagna than at any other time of day. Likewise, sharing meals builds a sense of camaraderie and community–a feeling of working together toward a common goal–where people at every level in the company rub elbows and break bread.

The food culture at Google makes it more than a fun place to work, it makes it a better company.

Sacca’s message to new startups:

“Feed talent: both figuratively and literally.”

Of course this lesson applies to more than just tech startups. All of us can add value to our lives by using meals to build relationships with friends, family and colleagues.

The promise of productivity is alluring, but your lunch hour isn’t necessarily better spent at your computer with a sandwich in one hand a mouse in the other.

Whom do you eat with?

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4 Responses to “Food And Community: Lessons From Google”

  1. I actually enjoy eating by myself. Normally I like conversation, but since I do SO mUCH conversing at work, it’s nice to have that quiet downtime where I can just focus on slowly eating my meal. I even make a point to leave my desk and sit in the cafe because otherwise people will constantly bother me to do this or that or fix something and then I’ll never finish what I’m eating before it’s cold.

    So, I think it goes both ways…having the convo when you’re isolated and also having silence when you’re constantly innundated with chatter.

  2. As a stay-at-home mom, most of my meals are with my 2-year-old, which I love. Dinners include my husband, too, which is wonderful.

    Even when I was working, I usually took my lunch hour to eat with co-workers, at least part of it. I hated how I felt at the end of the day when I worked straight through lunch and just ate on the fly.

  3. E. Foley says:

    My day job is at and we often go out for lunches in groups of anywhere from 4-16 people. (Thankfully for the restaurants involved, we are late lunchers.)

    We’ve come up with some pretty crazy ideas over lunch, some of which have helped develop new products. Also, my coworkers are totally awesome and hilarious people and fun to hang with no matter what we’re discussing.

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