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We are a company that likes having free lunches on the last Friday of every month. However, we have grown from 20 to now 80 people in our office!

We are finding it difficult to fit in our kitchen at once and some people dislike only speaking to the 2 people next to them.

How can we organise an effective lunch-time event for 80 people in a small office?

  • 1
    Do all 80 people have to be in the same room? If so, have you tried considering locations outside the office that are big enough? – user34587 Sep 26 '18 at 15:14
  • If your kitchen is not big enough then not much you can do about that. – paparazzo Sep 26 '18 at 16:04
  • "some people dislike only speaking to the 2 people next to them" - either have everyone stand, buffet-style, which will free up space, or have a mix of seating & standing. Btw, a company with 80 staff probably needs a cafeteria – Mawg Sep 27 '18 at 8:45
  • What does "free lunch" mean? Someone has to pay for food in the end. Who pays for lunch the other days? How is lunch organized the other days? – Taladris Sep 28 '18 at 1:59
  • Harry! I voted to close the question - But I think a minor edit can change my mind - do you think you can make the question a bit less broad? What have you tried, what are you considering? Show us the constraints you are working within. You can also consider asking about the "meta" process, i.e "how should I approach my colleagues about making changes to our monthly Friday Event?" or even more specific. I hope you are able to narrow it a little bit. – Stian Yttervik Sep 28 '18 at 11:33
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However, we have grown from 20 to now 80 people in our office! [...] How can we organise an effective lunch-time event for 80 people in a small office?

In a few words, you can't. Unless everybody ate on their desks, but that would have little fun and heavily limit the interaction you may have.

I see that the core issue here is that your office is now less adequate for the number of people in it. You basically grew a 400% in personnel, and perhaps what you (or your boss/owner) should be considering is finding a bigger office where you can all fit comfortably.

So, alternatives to having lunch that I can think of include:

  • Make a reservation at a restaurant where you can all fit and chat comfortably.

  • Consider having your event at a conference room or hotel, where you will surely fit comfortably and can organize for a catering service for you all to eat.

  • You could also make your event in the open (like a "field trip" or "picnic"), perhaps some open space or field near your office that can be used. There you can rent some chairs and tables (or well eat on the ground like a real picnic), or also some tent or awning to cover from the sun and elements.

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Our company has similarly grown to where we can bring in lunch for the company (I'm eating such a lunch now) but the communal kitchen only has seating for 20 or so and there's no way to seat everyone together. This makes everyone default to going and eating at their desks.

Things you can do (assuming the goal is teambuilding and not just feeding people so they work harder by not leaving the building):

  1. Designate several communal eating areas - reserve conference rooms and such for the lunch hour. Have assigned people (execs, whatever) manning them to make them more of a "destination." Or have some common video (company, training, something) running in all of them to make it more of a destination and communal experience.

  2. If it's important enough to the company leadership, you can embargo other activities at that time - maybe not to the degree of "internet's off you freaks" but socially encourage "laptops closed" (and by booking all the conference rooms you discourage other meetings) during the time.

  3. In general just communicating your goals (which I notice was not done in this question) can help too. If there's just a pile of food in the kitchen, then "what's wrong with just taking it and going to my desk to eat" in the lack of any other expressed expectation or norm?

  • As a variation on using multiple eating areas, assign people eating locations randomly, so that you don't just end up with people who always spend time together in each room. – Patricia Shanahan Sep 28 '18 at 3:39
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If space is a limiting factor, what about having lunch outside, in the open? Depending on the time of the year it can be quite enjoyable, getting out of the regular office space to socialise with colleagues and "chill".

Another possible solution could be to have 20 people go for lunch, and then have the next 20 go after the first have returned. Of course, that only works if having all 80 employees together at once is not required.

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