Open almost any popular American cookbook and you’ll see the author prefacing the story with “I was raised in an Italian family…” to explain their love of food. I too was raised in such a family, and when you grow up in the typical Italian-American home, food is more than just what you’re eating.
Food is an expression of love, the anchor of tradition, and the fire that family can always gather around. Food is culture.
The ‘why’ behind Blend’s food program
Exactly one year after I was hired on at Blend, I was given an opportunity to run our food program, which today involves feeding over 300 people a day. We offer catered lunch and dinners, fully-stocked kitchens for snacks anytime or building your own breakfast, and organize food for meetings and events. Plus – of course – we have the all-important coffee stations. Each floor has its own espresso machines, kegs of nitro cold brew, and even pour over beans shipped from roasters all over the country.
The food program is extensive — to say the least — so I spent the first two months taking notes, observing habits, and thinking of what overall philosophy would guide me as I began to make the program my own.
The first question I asked myself was, “Why does Blend have a food program?”
If you work in tech, meal programs are a way for the company to stay competitive when recruiting top talent. Industry giants like Google, Apple, and Facebook all offer famously high-quality meals and snacks to employees to help keep them focused, motivated, and productive. Employees don’t have to spend time in busy cafe lines or preparing meals at home and instead have access to a wide variety of meals and snacks.
As a person who loves building culture and community around food, I am personally thrilled that employee meals have become an industry standard here in the Bay Area. When I took over the food program, it was important to incorporate this ideology.
1. To bring people together
The first time I stayed late enough for dinner, I was touched by the scene of all these people talking and laughing over a meal. I thought to myself, “How many of these people would otherwise be eating alone?” Gathering around the dinner table can act as a place of community, and sharing a meal is a great way for people to get to know each other and catch up on the events of the day. It also offers opportunities for employees to easily build friendships across teams and meet people they otherwise might not encounter.
2. To reward people for hard work and encourage focus
The startup scene is famously a hardworking culture. In the relentless pursuit of investment, growth, bringing the product to market, and working to build a valuable company, it is not unusual to see teams or individuals choose to crunch on a project late into the evening or early in the morning. Offering breakfast foods, lunch midday, and dinner every night to those who are highly dedicated to their work or in the middle of solving a difficult problem gives our employees one less thing to think about. I view it as my job to deliver a wide variety of healthy options that are easy for them to grab in a matter of minutes if that’s all they have, or to craft a space for them to meet over a meal when they have more time.
3. To create a sense of home for employees who come from far away
The Bay Area has drawn top talent from all over the world. The meals we provide and the inviting spaces we create to gather and eat serve as a “town square” for our employees to get to know one another. Mealtime offers a chance to bond with their teams as well as across departments as one person can easily be the gateway to a whole new group of friends.
4. To cultivate an atmosphere of hospitality
We make it a point to share what we have with everyone who walks through our door. Candidates, clients, visitors, delivery workers, service technicians, and our daily vendors are all welcomed into Blend in the same way. We seek to make Blend famous for our warmth and hospitality. To that end, we encourage our employees to invite their friends to eat with us, to bring family in to tour the office, and if a delivery person happens to catch us at lunchtime, they are always offered a meal to take with them.
Our facilities team works hard to make sure that HQ is a sanctuary from the stresses of commuting around the Bay Area. Hospitality is so important to Blend because as we scale, our reputation will be crucial to attracting and retaining the best talent. If our employees feel like work is a place they can enjoy good food and good conversation with their co-workers and get to know them as friends, then we know our team is doing their best work.
Interested in joining the Blend team in San Francisco or New York? We’re hiring across all teams and would love to talk with you.