8 Employee Appreciation Food Ideas To Rally the Troops

Cassy Aite
April 3, 2024
8 Employee Appreciation Food Ideas To Rally the Troops

Celebrated on the first Friday of March each year, Employee Appreciation Day is an ideal opportunity to show your team members how much you value and respect their contributions. However, you don’t need to wait until March to show appreciation. Sometimes, an impromptu celebration is in order. The only issue is that not everyone likes the same things — with the notable exception of food.

By providing some snacks to nibble on at home, a lunch day in the (virtual) break room, or an end-of-week feast, your employees will feel appreciated and acknowledged. Use some of these employee appreciation food ideas to delight your employees. Nothing says thanks for hard work like sweet treats, guilty pleasures, or other delicious meal options.

8 Employee Appreciation Food Ideas

Food brings the whole team together, but what you serve can make or break the occasion. Promoting healthy snacks is always a smart move, but breaking from the mundane or health-food craze is the better choice in the name of fun (and flavor).

All options are on the table on the day of your employee appreciation meal. Whether you want to indulge a sweet tooth, showcase your staff members’ cooking abilities, or opt for American classics, these employee appreciation food ideas should give you some inspiration.

1. Ice Cream

Not all employee appreciation food ideas can get everyone excited — or can they? The lactose-intolerant aside, who doesn’t love an ice cream social? It’s sweet, creamy, and with so many flavors, everyone can find something they enjoy. Plus, studies show that the amino acids in ice cream can boost serotonin production, giving your ice cream treat a scientifically-backed improvement to mental health and wellness.

For a finishing touch, include a table with all the fixin’s — sprinkles, fruit, chocolate sauce, or whatever gets your mouth watering.

2. Potluck

People grabbing food at a potluck

In the modern work environment, peer recognition is every bit as important as praise from management. The only problem is how to encourage it.

Fortunately, a potluck is the type of food appreciation idea that can do just that. This counterintuitive option requires employees to make their own food, but that’s the only downside. Remember that you can always create a few dishes on your own (or takeout) and bring them in for a makeshift potluck.

If employees agree to make their own dishes, however, you can showcase your staff's culinary skills and get people to discuss how they prepared each one. It’s fun and engaging, and if everyone's on board, it’s a great employee appreciation food idea.

3. Food Trucks

For those with a larger budget, food trucks are a proven winner. In most cities, you can find food trucks lurking near large companies during lunch hour. Some local restaurants even have their own food truck to capitalize on festivals, sporting events, and other gatherings.

To put this employee appreciation food idea into play, call around to see what food truck companies are available. You might be surprised how willing they are to help you spread appreciation among your employees.

4. Donuts

Light, airy, sweet—a better combination of tastes and textures doesn’t exist outside the donut. An office classic for decades, the donut is easy to transport, requires only a napkin, and comes in a huge array of flavors.

Though you can always go to Dunkin’, Krispy Kreme, or Tim Horton’s, some of the best donuts are made locally. Use this employee food appreciation idea as a chance to improve employee morale and support local businesses simultaneously.

5. Cupcakes

Whether you need an Employee Appreciation Day idea or want to celebrate the contributions of your entire staff, nothing says thanks like a cupcake. Bakeries offer cupcakes in tons of sizes and flavors to get taste buds jumping. If you plan ahead, you can also get customized cupcakes with your choice of company colors, the employee’s name, or your company logo.

6. Happy Hour Snacks

Charcuterie plate for happy hour wine

Sending happy hour drinks to virtual employees with Hoppier or bringing some booze to the office can help your employees unwind after a long day or stressful project. However, some may have the tendency to overindulge.

Happy hour snacks are the perfect complement if you want to maintain healthy alcohol limits. Veggie trays, fruit plates, cheese plates, and charcuterie boards are superb additions to any happy hour, encouraging your employees to take sizable sips and slowing alcohol intake over time. And let’s just say it—charcuterie boards are one of the rare employee appreciation food ideas that are classy to boot.

7. Make Your Own Burger

So long as you don’t judge the person who wants a well-done burger, a make-your-own burger bar is pure bliss. You bring the burgers, offer multiple types of buns (classic, ciabatta, pretzel, etc.), and provide all the toppings. The rest is entirely up to your employees.

They’ll appreciate the creative nature of making their own burger and roll out concoctions that provide insight into their tastes. Whether they’re a plain Jane with meat and cheese only or a Renaissance (wo)man able to combine multiple tastes into one delicious patty on bread, it’s always exciting to see what happens at the office burger bar.

Don’t forget to throw in a few veggie burgers for the office vegans/vegetarians or those with dietary restrictions.

8. Healthy Snacks

Healthy snacks as an employee appreciation food idea is likely to elicit a groan from your staff, but when done properly, it’s an attractive option that promotes wellness and nutrition.

No, you don’t have to bust out kale and Brussels sprouts. Instead, you can focus on foods that are healthy in moderation. Some of the best foods that are healthy or border on healthy include:

  • Beef jerky
  • Lightly salted popcorn
  • Dark chocolate
  • Spiced nuts or wasabi peas
  • Smoothies
  • Baked chips
  • Pita bread or veggies with hummus
  • String cheese
  • Apples and peanut butter (or ants on a log)
  • Granola bars that contain fruit or chocolate
  • Fruit plates with local produce or exotic fruits

5 Employee Appreciation Ideas to Complement Your Meal

4 people playing board games at the office

Eating a meal together and socializing is a great staff appreciation idea. But if you add employee engagement or a team-building activity, some of these interactive elements are a fun way to boost morale, build a cohesive company culture, and promote a positive work environment.

1. Board Games

Board games connect people in ways that other activities can’t. And with a sandwich or slice of pizza in hand, they allow employees to forget the workday — even for just a few hours.

The best board games for the office can vary depending on your industry or employees, but ones that require teamwork, critical thinking, and communication are ideal. Try Codenames, Scattergories, or Pictionary just to name a few.

2. Employee Recognition

You don’t want to turn a meal into a meeting, but showing appreciation for work anniversaries, milestones, or top performers in your employee recognition program can bolster employee morale.

Describe what each person did to deserve the recognition, provide a small appreciation gift, or name your employee of the month. When everyone’s well-fed, they’re more likely to participate in the fun. Plus, you just might increase employee retention and job satisfaction as a result.

Check out these fun gift ideas for the perfect complement to employee recognition — no matter your budget.

3. Trivia

Whether you’re putting your best employee appreciation food ideas on the table with onsite or remote employees, competition never goes out of style. Pub trivia, Jeopardy!, or a mishmash works on Zoom or in the office, allowing your staff to showcase their off-the-wall knowledge.

4. Company Swag

Practical company swag always has a place in the office. From reusable water bottles to hoodies to coffee mugs, useful goods are the perfect pairing to your employee appreciation food ideas.

5. Lunch Roulette

Lunch Roulette is an excellent tool if you want to keep the fun of employee meals rolling and increase camaraderie. Randomly pair two or more employees for meetups, meals, or coffee chats once a week or once a month. Everyone will get to know each other on a personal level, fostering another layer of communication and engagement.

A Final Employee Appreciation Food Idea: Let Your Employees Choose Their Own Meals

Catering a meal for a few employees isn’t all that difficult, but the task becomes infinitely more cumbersome if you have a staff with dozens of people or a fully remote staff. If that represents your current situation, sidestep the issue with help from Hoppier.

Hoppier gift cards are a quick, effective way to give the gift of grub to your employees. Select an amount for each card, stylize it to your liking, and set an expiration date if necessary. You can then send each card to your employees’ email addresses.

Hoppier gift card

Once your employees have e-gift cards, send out invitations for the feast and let everyone choose the meal they want. Whether you’re onsite or remote, Hoppier gift cards provide the perfect way to honor your employees with food everyone can enjoy — all while navigating dietary restrictions, specialized diets, and personal tastes.

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