There's no cheaper way to raise job satisfaction than offering free refreshments. According to a survey from the corporate food delivery company Seamless, 60% of employees feel more valued if their corporate masters offer them a treat now and then, while 45% of employees admitted that free lunches would "strongly influence" whether they'd take a job or not. And a survey from online grocer Peapod claimed that the percentage of "very" to "extremely" happy employees rises by 11% by the apparition of a popcorn machine in the breakroom.
But that bump in job satisfaction is not the only way companies use their free food to increase productivity. Free food is a very cheap way for, as business analyst Daniel Gross puts it, "controlling young employees." Since most perk-happy companies pay fixed salaries and no overtime, it quickly becomes very profitable to throw some cheap snacks and lunches at their employees if it means keeping them at their desk and not out for a coffee run.
Dinner privileges also tend to kick in only after business hours to incentivize workers to stay late. And the higher the pay, the greater the yogurt yield. There's a reason why every movie about lawyers has a scene of them putting tons of Chinese food on the corporate account while they're burning the midnight oil trying to get Al Pacino his dog park. But they're paying for those 14 bucks worth of moo shu pork with about $1,400 worth of unpaid overtime while the company pockets the leftovers.
Then there's the stress eating. Encouraging longer hours and keeping their employees locked inside inevitably creates a more demoralizing environment. But thanks to the constant presence of tasty free food, employees can then just eat their feelings instead of becoming disgruntled. But all that scarfing down processed food creates a very unhealthy eating habit. Data from a US Department of Agriculture Food Acquisition and Purchasing Survey showed that employees unwittingly scarf down almost 1,300 of mostly empty calories per week courtesy of their corporate chef and/or vending machine.