Free office snacks have long been a workplace perk of tech companies.
As a result, an entire mini-sector of businesses has been built around delivering and stocking snacks for hungry office employees. So what happens to those businesses when those employees are no longer in the office, as has been the case during this pandemic?
Subscribe to the Crunchbase Daily
For some suppliers, it means tweaking their business model to make snacks a work-from-home perk for employees who are no longer in the office.
“That second week of working from home, when we realized this was likely going to be longer-term, people starting thinking about, ‘Oh my gosh how do we keep taking care of our team and keep us all connected?’” said Sean Kelly, CEO of snack delivery service SnackNation.
SnackNation has been shipping curated snack boxes to offices for a long time, but introduced its full onsite service for larger companies–items like fresh food and coffee–in the fourth quarter of last year.
When businesses began having employees work from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, SnackNation paused its onsite service and reached out to its nearly 6,000 delivery customers to see what else it could do to help.
“That’s when we initially got feedback [for] a work-from-home product, some sort of product that would maintain morale [and] boost productivity,” Kelly said. Although SnackNation had considered a work-from-home product before, the mass migration out of offices “allowed us to accelerate that innovation and say ‘Hey, let’s get it out of the parking lot,’” he said.
Companies like FitBit, Intuit, Monday.com, Hinge and Red Bull have sent SnackNation’s work-from-home boxes to employees while they’re out of the office. The boxes are employer-subsidized, bringing the perk of free snacks home to their employees.
WorkPerks, another snack-box delivery company, also had to shift where its boxes were going, according to CEO Jonathan Shapiro.
The company didn’t regularly send snack boxes to employees’ homes before COVID-19 caused everyone to begin working from home, Shapiro said. While the company had a corporate gifting program and sometimes employers would send a snack box to a new employee, the idea of sending boxes of snacks to employees’ homes as a company perk wasn’t prevalent.
“There really weren’t a lot of companies thinking that way from an office culture perspective,” he said.
WorkPerks also offers customers an opportunity to donate their snack box to hospitals and food banks. Celebrities Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos’ production company, Milojo Productions, for example, opted to donate their office’s WorkPerks snacks to Mount Sinai Health System in New York. SnackNation has a similar option for existing members who want to donate to a local food bank.
SnackNation’s Kelly said he still plans on offering the work-from-home snack boxes, even when employees begin going back into offices.
“I think one of the biggest changes coming out of this will be the acceptance of a more fluid employer-employee relationship, especially in regard to where people are doing their work,” Kelly said. “I think people also want to be uniform, they want to provide a uniform-level of care for their team regardless of if they work from home, [or] if they work from another city.”
He also predicts that bulk snacks in dispensers (think nuts, mini-crackers, etc.) will become obsolete as employers and employees prioritize sanitation.
It’s a sentiment echoed by Michael Wystrach, CEO of ready-made meal delivery service Freshly. The company, which was previously consumer-focused, recently rolled out its B2B service to help companies bring the workplace perk of free lunch to employees working from home.
“I think what’s interesting with food is that we’re already talking with companies that are going back and looking at new food solutions,” Wystrach said. “Because they don’t want to be doing buffet-style self-serve anymore; they want single-serve options that are safe and don’t have multiple people touching [it] and stuff.”
Illustration Credit: Dom Guzman