If you’re one of the many forced to be in a corporate cage that includes a 9-5 stint and no schedule flexibility, I’d like to introduce you to a silver lining: your lunch break. Whether you’re a peon employee, a newbie intern, executive management, or even a bottom-line driven founder – lunch time harnesses tremendous untapped potential for the corporate sector.

The best Wall Street firms and start ups have one thing in common: they both tend to host in-office lunches. I had a friend at a high-ranking financial firm who had their company pick up the tab everyday if they ordered in. The pickup was sorted out by an errand boy who usually frequented the 3-5 pre-approved dining spots in the area (usually on the healthier non-food-coma-inducing side). Lunch and sometimes even dinner (if they worked into the evenings) was just another perk. Employees loved not having to rush to grab a bit and employers loved finding a way to keep employees at their desk.

Former Benchmark guest blogger, Thumbtack, was recently featured with co-founder and then guest blog contributor Sander Daniels, who offered a delightful tale of their lunch time story. In their start-up years, they noticed they were wasting an hour on trekking out for lunch. Then they decided to order in. Next they decided to hire a chef. Three years in with “$6 million in funding, and a ten-times growth in staffing,” Daniels offers Fast Company his four reasons for why “family-style meals make business sense”:

  • Meals build community: Everyone on the team eats together every day
  • Meals build networks: On Wednesdays they have an open dinner where recruits can hang with the company
  • The team is more productive: People aren’t leaving the office to wait in lines or scrounging around for food
  • Everyone is eating awesome food, so everyone is healthy

Thumbtack even offers a startup food manifesto that underlines a key new idea – family style business meals. Imagine exchanging the center-office conference table with a kitchen table, and you start getting an idea of the corporate culture that starts with food. At Thumbtack, the team eats lunch together four times a week and includes a weekly big family-style dinner. Their reasoning is two fold.

First, it’s an alternative to the type of benefits startups tend to offer, one that facilitates collaboration. Imagine the alternatives that include “ping-pong tables, video games, or gym memberships.” While those are great, this one gives back to the team. Thumbtack feels that “a culture of good food is an order of magnitude more important.”

Their second reason touches on that culture and reinforces traditional ideas about food and health, health and performance. After all, how productive can you be if you’re spending the latter half of the business day recovering from a food-coma onset at the hands of a local fast food joint, or even at a too-heavy-for-the-day gourmet restaurant like that of Indian cuisine…which the rest of us have all suffered from one too many times.

Thumbtack definitely has the right idea. The food we eat does affect our productivity – an assessment that a 2005 flagship study by the International Labour Organization would agree on. Furthering the point, the prestigious World Health Organization adds that proper nourishment can raise productivity levels by 20%. Touching on this issue of brain foods vs. drain foods, Mindflash hosts an excellent infographic that guides the way for raising the bar for business lunch.

If you’re interested in also being a guest blogger for Benchmark, please contact Shireen.