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I work in a building that is semi-shared with several other teams. We have over 5000 employees in total across all the buildings we work in. My team likes to have small gatherings that include free food. As their manager, I want to ensure that everyone gets a fair share.

We only have common area break rooms for these gatherings, which tend to attract a large crowd. Earlier, I ordered pizza for about 40 people. It ended up with many random people showing up and quickly taking all the pizza.

At first, I took aside one person who had a pizza in his hand and questioned him. I told him I would speak to his manager, but as I walked back to my desk, I saw a Senior Vice President (several levels above him and me) taking away a plate full of pizza. I know if I complain now, it would have no effect or even retaliation by the executive.

This has then been happening regularly, with people from random groups of all levels taking all of our food. What can I do to prevent this from occurring in the future?

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    Put a sign up. It's not surprising if it's in a common room that people feel entitled to it. If you have a sign, it's much less defensible, akin to taking someone's labeled lunch out of the fridge. – A. McDaniel Jan 14 '17 at 8:19
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    Now I'm confused. You don't want people that don't belong to take your food, but you cannot tell who actually belongs? No wonder the others are confused, too. If you don't want random strangers o pick up your food, you need to stand in the door and don't let random strangers into the room. It's really that easy. – nvoigt Jan 14 '17 at 9:04
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    Put a sign up "Meeting in progress. Keep door closed". If they aren't a part of your meeting, then they have no business showing up. And keep the door closed. – Vietnhi Phuvan Jan 14 '17 at 9:30
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    "What can I do to prevent this from occuring in the future?" What advice, other than "don't let random people take your food" are you looking for exactly? You don't seem to have done anything to even point out that this food is reserved for a specific team... – Lilienthal Jan 14 '17 at 11:05
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    You are leaving pizza out in a common room and surprise random people eat it. Guard the pizza. – paparazzo Jan 14 '17 at 12:03
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If you keep food in a common room without making it clear who it is meant for, people will assume that anyone can have it.

You don't need to know everyone in the office who is not supposed to eat the food, but only the people who are supposed to eat it. When you put food in a common room, paste a note on the door (or in a prominent place close to the food, in case of a room with no door) which says "Foo Widget Testing Team Party" or something like that.

In addition, let the people know at least a few hours before the food arrives, as against, "Guys, I just kept pizza in common room, go and get it." Also, be present in the common room from the time the pizza arrives until a few "invited" guests arrive. Once a few people have "crowded" around the food, the "uninvited" guests are unlikely to grab the food due to social pressure.

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    Thanks, I'll try these techniques this next week and will post another question if nothing changes as I block people. I will schedule this a few hours earlier for lunch so the randoms don't find out. – Anous B King Jan 15 '17 at 2:38
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Have the free food offsite. Pick a local restaurant and go there. Of course with 40 people they will want reservations. Many restaurants also have private rooms, and you can either pick the food or let them order off the full menu or a subset of the menu. You also don't have to worry so much about no-shows.

But sticking with your situation. You have 5000 people working on-site and the only room that can hold 40 people and food, is a common break room? I have worked in places that had either rooms off the cafeteria that could bring in food for conferences, or a room inside the cafeteria that could be used for a team function. Even if there is no cafeteria there has to be rooms for large conferences.

Also food doesn't have to be exactly at peak lunch time, which may open up different options.

A word of advice if having the food offsite make sure you cover their time while going to and from the restaurant. I always hate free food that I have to use vacation hours to get.

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What can I do to prevent this from occurring in the future?

This one is easy.

Have the pizza delivered to your desk or your table in the common area, then send an email to your team that it has arrived. Your team can gather in their preferred small gathering area, and you can bring the pizza to them.

That way, you can tell any random people "Sorry, that's just for my team."

At first, I took aside one person who had a pizza in his hand and questioned him. I told him I would speak to his manager, but as I walked back to my desk, I saw a Senior Vice President (several levels above him and me) taking away a plate full of pizza.

Unfortunately, you let a bad precedent develop. Time to put an end to the "leave the pizza unattended and hope for the best" practice.

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