Italy excels at good food, and every self-respecting Italian knows that sitting at the table is about so much more than just eating: it’s about culture, tradition, passion and the sharing of stories. But apparently, as is all too often the case, we had to wait for America to tell us so before we realized that spending lunch breaks together helps build stronger bonds. They figured this out in Silicon Valley, where companies are looking to food to improve employee relations through team building in the kitchen and shared company lunches. And there’s a growing number of food startups offering social eating services.
Commensality: taking lunch breaks together is the new trend
Company team building has gone from yoga, to adrenaline-filled rafting or climbing adventures in the great outdoors, to escape rooms. Now this year it’s focused on simplicity: the new trend is eating together. A study from Cornell University in New York State showed that sharing meals is a natural yet profound way to create stronger bonds between team members.
In fact, working together can create jealousy and one of the clearest manifestations comes out at lunch time, when one person may choose to eat with a single privileged colleague instead of with everyone. The solution, according to Kevin Kniffen, who studied this phenomenon, is to bring all the members of a work team together and practice “commensality”, or the act of sharing a meal.
Better performance among employees, all thanks to social eating at work
The phenomenon of social eating in companies is really spreading throughout the startups in Silicon Valley. Not surprisingly, it’s also really popular among Italians, who have always held the tradition of communal meals. As the Cornell study revealed (and the Harvard Business Review confirmed), employee efficiency doubled in terms of productivity, as well as cooperation within the groups who ate together.
This is reinforced even further if the meal eaten together is nutritionally balanced and mindful of using quality ingredients. The most popular requests? Healthy foods, dishes based on grains, whole wheat flours, minimal dressings and condiments, lean protein and freshly squeezed juices.
And that trend has been revealed in Italy by Foorban, the country’s first location-less restaurant. It’s all digital: you use the app to order a meal, and in 20 minutes you can be enjoying classic Italian dishes from the comfort of your office.
Team Building in the kitchen: not just eating but cooking together too
Before even getting to the table, the stovetop can also be an important test. It can show who has what it takes to be a leader, who’s up for trying new things, who likes to test and experiment, who opts for tradition, and many other aspects that link cooking to working as a team. Because as any chef knows, preparing food depends on teamwork, and requires synergy and collaboration. That’s why more and more companies are choosing cooking as a team building activity.
And once again, technology and startups are helping. Cooktogether, for example, is a social media platform where food lovers can post and exchange recipes. Then there’s Fuudly, which offers cooking lessons that can be done in groups. And finally there’s Quomi, a startup that sends a kit to your office with all the ingredients you need to make delicious recipes.