🍜11 Food Focused Ideas for Fueling Internal Communications and Culture
Food for Thought to Start 2022
How are avocados, crepes and noodles connected with internal communications and culture?
Food brings people together, sparks conversations and builds community just as internal communications and culture strives to accomplish the same objectives. As we welcome employees back to work, this combination offers comforting, energizing and engaging ways to gather in the new year.
As food for thought, I’m sharing 11 food focused ideas to pair with internal communications and culture. These initiatives offer a distinctive start to 2022 with these goals in mind:
📝 Develop creative content for internal communications channels
❤️ Foster Diversity, Equity and Inclusion through food
🙏 Give back to communities while investing in culture
📈 Build employer brand for recruiting and morale
🥘 #1 Cooking Classes
Cooking together builds camaraderie. Employees discover new skills and learn about each other through the experience. Consider empowering employees to teach a meaningful recipe from their culture as a way to foster Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The cooking class can be paired with a story about their traditions. Try it once and if it goes well, make it a series.
I organized Spin Can Cook — named in honor of one of my favorite cooking shows — Yan Can Cook! Spin Can Cook was a monthly series taught by team members. We learned authentic French crepes from the VP of Product, schnitzel and glühwein (mulled wine) from a Senior Program Manager in Germany (who stayed up late to cook for the West Coast time zone), paella from a Regional General Manager in Miami and many more events. Record the classes so they can be posted on your Intranet to watch anytime or link to them in newsletters.
If you prefer an official culinary expert, search for a chef or restaurant to serve as the instructor. You could even partner with them to mail employees ingredients in advance to compensate for rising food prices. Add an optional philanthropic twist for employees by sharing a list of food banks and shelters accepting donations of food or leftover ingredients for people facing food insecurity. Here are a few ideas from Food52.
🍱 #2 Snack Boxes
Many offices stock/ed snacks to keep employees energized throughout the day. Bring back some of that nostalgia by mailing a snack box to team members for a special occasion — an important All Hands, an employee resource group event or a holiday celebration.
Customize the box to ensure it is health-conscious, meets dietary restrictions and aligns with the theme of the program. Imagine rolling out your new values and pairing each one with a specific snack that symbolizes their meaning. There are many snack box services to choose from — find one that resonates with your mission.
📖 #3 Cookbook
Invite employees to submit their favorite recipes for a special organization-wide cookbook. To spark online conversation, the recipes can be shared in an online group or channel for comments and questions. Feature select recipes in employee newsletters as evergreen content.
Take it one step further by partnering with the design team to format, print and mail a physical cookbook to employees as a special gift. Share these recipes and stories on LinkedIn to build employer brand like Fram.io posted in recognition of Asian-Pacific Islander Heritage Month with soups and noodle dishes.
🧊 #4 Icebreakers
Get to know your colleagues with fun food themed questions before a meeting starts or post in one of your channels, groups or chats. Consider elevating leaders to post a question and share their answer as a way to build personal connections between executives and employees. Here are a few suggested questions:
🍨 If you opened an ice cream shop, what would you name it?
🍝 What’s your favorite restaurant and why?
🥐 If you received a gift card to a bakery, what would you order?
🧄 What’s your favorite spice and why?
👩🍳 Who is a chef you admire?
🥙 #5 Local Lunches
Give employees a lunch fund to buy a locally sourced meal. Encourage them to consider ordering from small restaurants which need support now more than ever. Then, gather for a virtual conversation and invite attendees to share where they ordered from and something special about the restaurant — who are the owners, what memories have they enjoyed while eating a meal from there and other thought-provoking questions.
Sharing these reflections could also take place in an online channel or a group as a nice record of all the favorite local meals. When a work anniversary occurs, managers could consider purchasing a gift card to that favorite local spot for an employee with support from the People Team.
🍫 #6 Tiny Fireside Chat
Keep summer going all year long with this nostalgic Tiny Campfire experience from Team Building — an organization known for Museum Hack — unconventional tours of the best cultural institutions! They take that same approach with the Tiny Campfire, but instead of a tour guide, participants are assigned a "camp counselor," tell stories, participate in fun trivia and are sent an at-home s'mores-making kit.
Consider customizing this experience by engaging an executive as a guest speaker and hosting a Q and A fireside chat. The trivia could be focused on fun facts about your organization and its people. Note: I have not participated in this event, but it really made me smile when I read the description.
🎤 #7 Storytelling Event
Sharing stories brings people together, according to Psychology Today. It also builds empathy — one of the top skills for employees. The Moth sets the bar for using “true, personal storytelling to illuminate the human experience, build empathy and drive social change.”
Speakers have a set amount of time — typically five minutes to talk. In the past, I’ve hosted a version of this event featuring employee stories linked to organizational values. For the food focused twist, invite team members to share a food related story at a special heritage month celebration — Black History Month, Pride, Women’s History Month and many more options.
📸 #8 Food Photo Group or Channel
If you don’t already have a channel or group focused on food photos already, start one! It’s a basic staple for engaging virtual office culture. They are a lot of fun for employees to connect over successes or flops, share recipes and engage in conversation over food anytime.
With permission, take photos and quotes from this channel and add it to the start of an All Hands slide show before the main event begins. Watch the chat box or comment threads go in fun directions as employees engage in discussion on their culinary adventures.
🥑 #9 Host a Food Competition
Invite employees to vote on a favorite food or dish and host a competition where each of them bake or cook at home at the same time. Consider The Food Network’s Cupcake Wars as inspiration! Bring in a local bakery chef as a facilitator. In the new year, keep in mind, a healthy option. Call ahead to local homeless shelters to find out if they accept food donations for employees to consider dropping off extra food, if they would like to share.
For avocado fans, this is another amazing idea from the folks at Team Building. They organize the Great Guac Off™ (TGGO) — “a guacamole themed party that includes amazing facts and stories about avocados, cool trivia, mini-games and culminates in a guacamole making competition.” Note: I have not participated in this event, but it sounded fun and delicious.
🍵 #10 Celebrate Food Holidays
If there’s a food, there’s a holiday to celebrate it. According to this list, January includes National Oatmeal, Soup and Hot Tea days. Pick a few of these days that might resonate with employees and ask specific managers to post about it in your food channel or group.
Invite team members to share their favorite topping for oatmeal, flavor of soup or tea preference. Get creative and have fun! This content can be repurposed to share in employee profiles, newsletters and other internal communications channels.
🍛 #11 Meal Planning 101
In the new year, many people commit to exercise more and eat healthier. Often, it’s hard to make the time to plan ahead to cook, but with your organization’s support, employees can get the guidance they need internally! This is a great way to collaborate with your People Team for a wellness initiative. Bring in a guest chef or nutritionist to share strategies, meal ideas and tips for planning fast, healthy and delicious meals.
Ask team members to request specific topics in advance to address them at the live event. Offer an anonymous Q&A option so they can ask questions about topics on their mind, but might not want to share publicly. End the event with a raffle for a healthy meal kit gift for participants. Then, package up some of these tips to share on the Intranet.
I hope these ideas help you create internal communications content, build community and connect in meaningful ways as we begin another year where work feels different. If you have an idea to add to this list, please share it in the comments. Bon Appétit!
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