Lunch Vouchers: The Filling Way To Keep Your Team Happy and Engaged

Cassy Aite
May 24, 2024
Lunch Vouchers: The Filling Way To Keep Your Team Happy and Engaged

Flexible benefits and perks are employee benefits that drive retention and attract top talent, yet competition can steal your candidates and workers without an intriguing mix of options. This is a common problem for small- and medium-sized businesses and startups.

Even with modern benefits such as paid paternity leave, employee recognition programs, and unlimited paid time off, one perk is consistently undervalued and underutilized: lunch vouchers.

To avoid talent drain and recruiting efforts, meal vouchers hit on the most basic human instincts: to enjoy a delicious meal at work without spending thousands of dollars a year.

At Hoppier, we think lunch vouchers are a novel idea — or maybe we’re just hungry. Either way, adding lunch vouchers to your list of perks can reap benefits compared to other options. Let’s discuss why you should consider them and how they can help your business.

What Are Lunch Vouchers?

Also known as food vouchers, restaurant vouchers, luncheon vouchers, meal tickets, or meal vouchers, lunch vouchers are coupons or gift certificates that employees can use to purchase meals at work. Employers typically have a limit on purchasing power for the employee, limiting the voucher amount on a weekly, monthly, or per-meal basis.

Traditionally, employees received paper voucher cards that used hole punches or credit card-like vouchers that deducted the price of a meal from the total balance.

Today, most of these physical lunch vouchers have been replaced by digital ones. Digital vouchers provide unparalleled convenience and allow employees access to a wider variety of meal options.

Gone are the days of the office cafeteria. To give the perk more appeal, modern lunch vouchers can be used almost anywhere, including:

  • Supermarkets
  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • Cafes
  • Bar & grills
  • Sandwich shops
  • Snack bars
  • Almost anywhere that sells food, with the typical exception of convenience stores

What’s the Difference Between a Lunch Voucher and a Food Allowance?

Two employees eating lunch together

The difference between a lunch voucher and a food allowance is a source of major confusion, and we’re not surprised. In theory, they’re very similar, yet with some notable differences.

A food allowance is a stipend given to an employee to pay for meal expenses. Generally, these are a set amount each week or month and are most commonly given to employees who travel regularly. Like a lunch voucher, employees can use a food allowance wherever they want.

A lunch voucher is a digital or paper coupon that provides an employee with a meal. It’s a physical or digital good, unlike a stipend, which has no physical form.

Vouchers, Food Allowances, and Taxes

The other major difference between lunch vouchers and food allowances is how they’re taxed. Lunch vouchers provide more value for employees, as they’re tax-exempt. However, employers can only deduct 50% of the face value of the vouchers on taxes.

Conversely, food allowances and stipends are 100% tax-deductible for employers and tax-exempt for employees, provided the allowance amount doesn’t exceed the government-mandated maximum (which varies by state).

The Benefits of Lunch Vouchers for Both Employees and Employers

Like other types of corporate perks and benefits, lunch voucher systems provide benefits for employees and employers alike. If you want to implement a program but are unsure if it’s the right move for your company, we’re certain these benefits will push you toward the lunch voucher solution.

Benefits for Employees

Any added perk will entice employees to apply and stay at your company, but lunch vouchers also provide several other advantages, including:

  • Control of Finances: Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, food prices have risen between 20% and 30%, with unprocessed food prices increasing even more. Employees can safely budget and take control of their finances with a set amount of money on their lunch vouchers each week or month.
  • More Variety: Lunch vouchers provide workers with an abundance of food options. Rather than eating at the office cafeteria or the Subway down the street each day, they can sample different foods or eat at the latest trendy restaurant. Variety is the spice of life, and lunch vouchers provide an avenue to try different things.
  • Work-Life Balance: Employees enjoy improved work-life balance through budgeting and more food options. They can go to restaurants with coworkers, socialize, and relax without the stress of paying for the meals.
  • Opportunities to Refresh and Unwind: Though employers have always been concerned about long lunch breaks, studies show that around 40% of employees don’t take any lunch breaks at all. That may seem to benefit employers, but failure to take a lunch break can actually damage productivity. Employees can get the nourishment they need with a lunch voucher, step away from work, and unwind, ready to return to the office refreshed.

Benefits for Employers

  • Promote Healthy Choices and Increase Productivity: Not every employee has healthy eating habits. A Brigham Young University study of 20,000 employees showed that those with unhealthy eating habits are 66% less productive than those with healthier snacks and meals. In addition, those who didn’t eat fruits or vegetables were 93% less productive than their healthy counterparts. If you can promote healthy options via lunch vouchers, it’s a beneficial scenario in terms of productivity.
  • Lower Healthcare Costs: Lunch vouchers don’t guarantee healthier eating habits, but they can have an impact if you launch healthy eating campaigns in unison — highlighting why apples are better than french fries, so to speak. When employees get meals from healthier restaurants or vendors and stay away from the vending machine, they prevent habits that can lead to sick days and chronic diseases. The result is lower healthcare costs for your company.
  • Job Satisfaction: Employers who offer lunch vouchers showcase their care for employees. Employers feel valued and that their employer values their health, which can lead to improved job satisfaction and productivity.
  • Remote Work Solutions: Having remote work lunches seems all but impossible. You can’t physically give remote workers a meal, but you still want to get to know them. A lunch voucher fixes this issue. Giving your team lunch vouchers or gift cards for meals is a perk that can feed them, let them take a break from the screen, and hopefully bolster an online office social scene. For good measure, we think Lunch Roulette is an awesome idea, pairing random employees together on working days for a meal and chance to socialize.  

Benefits for Others

Employees and employers both benefit from lunch voucher programs, but it may also benefit local businesses. When you provide a digital or printable voucher to your employees and don’t put restrictions on where they spend it, you support local restaurants, independent cafes, and other locally owned businesses. It’s a win-win scenario that shows your support for the community.

We suggest you promote local restaurants, cafes, and bakeries to employees to partner with other businesses competing against chains and big money.

How To Start a Lunch Voucher Program at Your Business

Person eating lunch at their laptop

Due to the growing popularity of lunch voucher programs, starting one at your business is easier than ever. Follow these steps to eliminate any hassles and launch the program with ease:

  1. Find a lunch voucher company: Lunch voucher companies have sprung up around the country, so finding a partner should be smooth. Here at Hoppier, we offer bulk e-gift cards that are a superb option for a lunch voucher program. Larger companies like Sodexo in the U.S. or Edenred in the U.K. also have lunch voucher options for all business sizes.
  2. Determine lunch voucher amounts and eligibility: This step is one of the most time-consuming aspects of lunch voucher programs. Your lunch voucher expenses need to be in line with your budget. Moreover, you can determine eligibility and the amount based on seniority or tenure—or just create a flat rate for all employees.
  3. Create a tracking system: Since lunch vouchers are partially tax-deductible, you should use accounting software to track them. You should also know how much each employee spends so you can carry the extra money to the next fiscal year or put it back in your bank account.
  4. Issue vouchers: Whether you use paper vouchers, a credit card, or a virtual gift card, issuing your vouchers should be a streamlined process. Hand them out at work, mail them to the employee, or send them via email. Whatever method you choose, always confirm that your employee received them.
  5. Get feedback: Rolling out any initiative is going to have hiccups along the way. Ask employees for feedback about the lunch voucher system to eliminate any pitfalls and improve the program over time.

Partner With Hoppier for the Perfect Lunch Voucher Solution

If you’ve decided that a lunch voucher program is in the best interest of your employees and company, congrats! You’ve made a smart move. The only question is how to proceed. While you could partner with a large corporation, you may not get the attention or meal variety you want.

That’s when Hoppier can help. Hoppier allows you to send lunch vouchers in the form of gift cards. These cards are as good as cash to thousands of food providers, restaurants, delivery services, and vendors. Select the amount for each card and an expiration date, and stylize the card how you see fit. Any amount left on the card after expiration goes back into your account, so you don’t have any sunken costs.

Hoppier Lunch Voucher Card

Hoppier also allows you to send these gift cards to recipients in over 60 countries, easily navigating the treacherous waters of creating a lunch voucher program for a fully distributed or global team.

When you want a fast, easy, and filling way to get meal vouchers to your employees, think Hoppier.

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Make Hoppier your unfair advantage today, schedule a demo

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Ready to 2x your global engagement at your next event, with Ox stress?

Make Hoppier your unfair advantage today, schedule a demo

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Ready to 2x your global engagement at your next event, with Ox stress?

Make Hoppier your unfair advantage today, schedule a demo


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