If you’re looking for opportunities where your CEO connects with employees, arrange for them to share a meal. Setting up lunches where the CEO, or senior leaders, can break bread with your team members is a win-win for everyone at the table.

That’s because sharing a meal brings people together in a unique way. A Cornell University study of firehouses found that squads that ate together performed better than other firefighters who dined separately. 

The study’s author, says,

“From an evolutionary anthropology perspective, eating together has a long, primal tradition as a kind of social glue. That seems to continue in today’s workplace.”

Kevin Kniffin, Assistant Professor at the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management

The benefits of lunch with the CEO programs

CEOs and other company leaders have a lot on their plates, and face-to-face meetings are a big part of the job. A Harvard Business Review survey of 27 CEOs over a three-month period found that this kind of face time took up 61% of their work hours. 

It’s time well spent: CEOs often use these personal interactions to learn more about what’s going on at the company on a granular level and offer support to people. A CEO lunch with employees is the ideal setting for that.  

Eating a meal with employees can also help CEOs fulfill another important job responsibility. In one survey of 20 business leaders, all respondents said talent management was under their domain, and 70% said they spend anywhere from 20% to 50% of their time on it. Getting to know employees better during these lunches can help leadership identify candidates for potential mentorship or promotions. Further, these lunches can help CEOs and employees align on their goals, so employees are primed for success.

During a CEO meeting with employees, both have the opportunity to ask questions or discuss issues and ideas. That time spent together can have many positive results:

  • Highly valued employees have better motivation, engagement, and satisfaction when it comes to their jobs, according to a survey from the American Psychological Association.
  • The same survey also found that these employees feel better about themselves, physically and mentally. 
  • Employees who are told their work is appreciated are 50% more productive on the job, compared to those who don’t feel valued, according to a Harvard Medical School study
  • When employees feel respected by leadership, it enhances their self-esteem, and they, in turn, can be more respectful to their co-workers.

There are big-picture benefits for your company, too. Employee engagement can be a key indicator of your business’ overall performance. In a Harvard Business Review survey, 71% of corporate leaders said engagement was integral to their company’s successful operations.

Plus, regular CEO meetings with employees foster a company culture of openness, respect, and two-way communication where feedback from both sides is listened to and acknowledged. These lunches can also be the origin of the next great idea that moves your company forward. 

Key questions to answer about your lunch with the CEO program 

The first thing to do is sit down with your CEO to lay the groundwork for the lunch program. Key points to cover during this session include:

  • The number of people who will attend. Will it be a more intimate small group setting, or will it include everyone in a department? Certain factors may influence this decision, such as the size of the company itself and whether any other C-level executives will host their own lunches.
  • The structure of the lunch. Does the CEO want a formal agenda or a relaxed roundtable discussion?
  • Topics the CEO wants to discuss. Is there information the CEO wants to gather from his employees, or is input needed on new projects in the pipeline? Find out what your CEO hopes to get out of the program.
  • The frequency of the lunches. Does the CEO want to participate monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly? If the schedule is jam-packed, a coffee with the CEO program can work, too.

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How to host a lunch with the CEO 

After talking with your CEO, or other senior leaders who will host lunches, it’s time to plan that first lunch. Things to keep in mind:

  • Finalize the guest list. Decide if you want departments to meet with the CEO or if you want to bring people together from different departments. The latter can help employees get to know colleagues in different areas.
  • Create an open environment. Talk with leadership about whether department managers should attend the CEO lunch with employees. If that might inhibit employee openness during the conversation, consider scheduling a managers-only lunch with the CEO at another time.
  • Consider whether someone from HR should be in attendance. A CEO may want help steering the conversation from an HR rep, who can also assist with any employee concerns or complaints. The rep can also ensure that everyone has the chance to speak.
  • Get feedback from employees. Collect questions in advance from the team members attending the luncheon. This way, your CEO or senior executive is briefed on the subjects they want to discuss.
  • Create an agenda, if you’re using one. When you invite the employees, include a copy of the agenda or expected talking points. It helps your team members prepare in advance.
  • Clear the calendars. Ensure everyone’s schedule is open before and after lunch, so no one is late or has to rush out before the meal is over.

How to provide food for your lunch with the CEO program  

In any lunch with the CEO program, the “lunch” part is crucial. You want to line up a great meal for everyone to enjoy. Here are some key ingredients for success:

  • Don’t go to a restaurant. A noisy, public space may prevent free-flowing conversation or make it difficult to hear what people are saying. If the CEO has a lunchroom, use that, or reserve a conference room where attendees have privacy. 
  • Use catering for a buffet or formal lunch. DoorDash for Work Full-Service Catering makes the process easy and convenient, with a Catering Captain who handles all the details, plus a wide range of restaurants to choose from for your meal. 
  • Allow for group orders. If the lunch is informal, or you have a variety of dietary needs to consider, opt for DoorDash Group Orders. You choose a restaurant and send a link out to all lunch participants. They place their orders, and all food is delivered promptly at whatever time you choose.

How to host a virtual CEO lunch with employees 

If everyone is working from home, you can still make your lunches happen. In fact, it may be even more vital for your CEO to connect with employees during this time. To make things easier for everyone, remember:

  • Send calendar invites. Make sure they go out far enough in advance so everyone can participate.
  • Get everyone connected. Set up and send the video conference link for your lunch a couple of days ahead of time.
  • Provide meal options. You want this CEO meeting with the employees to be a special occasion, so don’t have your team members prepare their own lunch. DoorDash for Work’s Expensed Meals can be ordered anywhere, anytime, making this a flexible and convenient option. You set everyone’s spending limits and ordering hours, making it simple to ensure they can get lunch that day. 
  • Provide flexibility. As an alternative, if you’ve given your employees DashPass for Work subscriptions, team members can use it to order lunch with reduced service fees and $0 delivery fees. 

Lunch with the CEO programs are popular and effective. Use DoorDash for Work to help you plan meals that bring your company together. Contact us today to get started.

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Kristen Van Nest
Kristen Van Nest

Kristen Van Nest is an L.A.-based writer with bylines in Forbes, HuffPost, and VentureBeat to name a few. As a former Fulbright Scholar and Newsroom Columnist for the British Chamber of Commerce’s publication in China, she specializes in market trends and strategies businesses can use to grow. Her free time is spent ordering in dumplings and honeycomb ice cream and writing funny content to make people laugh.