Business meetings are among the best ways to communicate information to all of your employees at once, and to build feelings of being on a team. When meetings are not getting the level of attendance you desire, you may want to start offering perks to employees who show up. Providing food may increase attendance, but it does not always work.
Researchers who have studied the effect of food on meeting attendance have found conflicting results. One study at the Mayo Clinic found that attendance statistics did not change at the faculty meetings for the department of radiology, which offered food one year but did not the next. Another study found that attendance at medical grand rounds meetings at the Mayo Clinic was significantly affected by the presence of food. Survey results confirmed that food affected people's decision of whether or not to attend.
The time of day when a meeting is held moderates the effect of food. In particular, providing food at a meeting held during a meal time, such as lunch, is likely to increase attendance statistics. This is because people need to eat during this time, and if they are expected to both provide their own food and attend the meeting, many will view this as too much of a burden. If one thing has to be sacrificed, it's going to be the meeting, not the food. Another time of day when food helps most is the morning, when people will be more likely to get up and come to the meeting if they can eat there instead of before arriving.
The culture of a business will have a large impact on whether food affects meeting attendance. For example, if the meetings are already seen as a joke or waste of time, bribing people with food is not likely to help. One factor that is likely to increase attendance when you provide food is the average income at your business. If people do not make much money, the free food will be a bigger draw than if they can afford to eat out every day anyway.
Although providing food can increase attendance statistics, businesses should consider the disadvantages before committing to a long-term plan that includes food at meetings. The financial cost to the business might not be worth the extra handful of employees whose attendance decisions are affected by the food, especially if the food being served is a full meal. In addition, employees who eat during a meeting might be distracted by the food or be disruptive to others because of the noise eating makes. This makes your meeting less productive than if you had not offered food.