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Visiting food trucks. Rotating pop-up restaurants. A weekly farmer’s market. Craft coffee from an on-site barista. It’s not just the way we work in an office that’s evolving. How we eat in the workplace is changing, too.

“Workplace dining is one of the top concerns companies express during the leasing process,” says Tom Greubel, Regional Vice President, Leasing. “Variety and access are essential. It’s not just about boosting morale for current employees. The right options can be a true competitive advantage, giving companies an edge for talent recruitment and team collaboration.”

Variety, Access and Community: The New Workplace Dining Experience

Lunch can be much more than a takeout meal eaten at a desk. Take Mazda, for example. Ensuring a positive workplace dining experience is so important to the company’s DNA that employees overwhelmingly voted for a “no food rule” at desks in their new 200 Spectrum headquarters. The rule encourages employees to take a break during a busy workday and to dine in the communal lounge spaces.

Workplace meals are an opportunity to strengthen camaraderie with coworkers, relieve stress during the work day, and exchange ideas that can become the next big thing. To facilitate this experience, companies are re-thinking where and how employees share meals. Here’s what your business needs to know:

1. Designate space for communal dining.

Why it matters: Table conversation is unique from our other daily office communications, like pinging a co-worker on Slack or sending a quick email. Sitting down over a shared meal allows for a deeper, more meaningful connection. Whether the conversation is about a difficult client or last night’s must-see TV show, these connections solidify working partnerships.

What to do: If your break room is small or lacks adequate seating, employees may end up eating at their desks by default. Turn an under-used meeting room into an inviting lounge or encourage employees to take advantage of outdoor dining space.

2. Schedule a recurring “family-style dining” event.

Why it matters: Scheduling a recurring event builds a culture of communal dining, helping employees get used to taking a break together with their team. Precedent matters, too. When employees see their managers and company leadership dining alongside them (and taking a break from email for the duration of the meal), this gives employees tacit permission to do the same– even outside of scheduled events.

What to do: Should you spring for taco bar Tuesday or a monthly BBQ break? Give employees a say and let them vote on favorite vendors. They’ll be more invested in the outcome and excited to participate.

3. Focus on meal variety and access.

Why it matters: Employees don’t want to choose between the same three meals every day or lose their entire lunch break traveling to better (and further) options. Outside of catered meals or scheduled events, employees still need access to a variety of healthy options close to their workplace.

What to do: When selecting your next workplace, consider which dining options are available on site or less than 5 minutes away. Many Irvine Company workplace communities offer unique dining partnerships including pop-up restaurants and rotating food trucks, in addition to on-site cafes and nearby restaurants.

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