Why is free food such a big deal to well-paid Silicon Valley tech employees?
Until you’ve seen the cost & financial numbers in a bigger company, you don’t totally get it, but …
1. Serving lunch in, for free or discounted, is the cheapest investment you can make in an internet/software company. Simply getting an extra 20-30 minutes of informal collaboration, and maybe even extra work (vs. time wasted going out) … has huge ROI when your engineers, fully burdened, cost $150k+ or more with benefits, taxes, etc. A few bucks to get back all that time? Super. Cheap.
And … it’s appreciated far, far more than it costs. Unlike almost every other benefit, which isn’t appreciated nearly as much as it costs.
On a related note,
2. “Open workspaces”, even with super cool lounges and sofas and such, are by far the cheapest way to cram in more employees once you get large. Even with high-end shared spaces, lounges, coffee and foosball stations … it’s still 20-40% cheaper than offices. Believe it or not, many software companies used to have an office for every engineer to quietly work without distractions (Microsoft, Adobe, etc.).
You don’t want your best folks leaving the office. And if you are in an expensive real estate market, you want to fit as many of them into your expensive office as you can.