Providing Breakfast: a Nice Gesture or a Smart Business Move?

For as long as we can remember, we have been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. There is a wealth of conclusive data to support the fact that those who regularly skip breakfast are leaving themselves open to serious health issues, and we all know that missing breakfast is a productivity [cereal] killer.

Yet despite this, it is estimated that one third of all adults always skip breakfast. 49% of all adults also agree with the statement that they ‘rarely have enough time to eat a proper breakfast’.

Offering free breakfasts for employees is a growing trend, especially among companies employing a large proportion of under-25s (the age group most likely to skip breakfast). It is undisputed that offering a free breakfast is beneficial to these employees, but at what cost? Is it a financially viable business move, or simply a nice gesture?

We compared the cost of providing breakfast with what employers can stand to gain from providing it:

Cost of providing breakfast

Porridge topped with a banana is a simple, nourishing breakfast which releases energy slowly throughout the day, and is oat-so-simple to prepare in big batches in a slow cooker. We looked at how much this might cost a 300 person organisation:

Item Cost Number required Total Cost
Oats 1kg = £0.75 15 £11.25
Milk 6 pints = £1.48 27 £39.96
Banana 1 banana = £0.14 300 £42.00
Labour £10/hour 0.5 £5.00
Cost of providing breakfast per person per day £0.33
Cost of providing breakfast for 300 people per day £98.21
Cost of providing breakfast for 300 people per year £25,534.60

Cost of not providing breakfast

Research suggests that those who do not consume breakfast lose as much 82 minutes of productivity in the working day as a result of being distracted and unfocused. They lack energy as their brains are quite literally running out of fuel, with their creative ideas inevitably turning to toast.

Average cost of lost 82 minutes (in terms of salary) £18.13
Average per person (based on one third of people skipping breakfast) £6.04
Average cost to a 300 person company per day £1,812.00
Average cost to a 300 person company per year £471,120.00

The Results

Total Annual Gain

£471,120 added profit from regained productivity – £25,534.60 cost of providing breakfast

= £445,585.40/year*

This means that a 300 person company could stand to save a staggering £445,585.40 per year by offering employees at least a basic, healthy breakfast. It also shows there is a little room to be creative when it comes to the breakfast on offer, with eggcelent healthy alternatives to porridge all within financial reach; the cost need only stay below around £6.04/person.

Additional Benefits

Other than combatting productivity lost through hunger, there are several additional benefits to providing breakfast in the workplace. Doing so can boost both corporate image and employee satisfaction, and this in turn can have positive implications for both productivity and employee retention rates.

Four of the top five companies on The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For 2017 list offer some form of free food as an employee benefit (the other includes meals which are highly subsidised). The Sunday Times’ ranking is based on employee responses to a survey, and proves that employees really do value the provision of free food.

Lexie Newnham, a talent acquisition partner at MVF (who rank 6th on the Sunday Times’ list), described MVF’s high ranking as having been ‘invaluable’ in attracting applications from vast numbers of graduates, and also noted that the offer of free breakfast generated a lot of interest at careers fairs. She also believes that providing breakfast has made the office more sociable, and has really encouraged the formation of interdepartmental friendships, something larger firms can often struggle with.

The Future of Work Perks

Whilst providing free food to staff may be a little out of some businesses’ comfort zones, we really do believe that this is a business trend that will continue to gather momentum in the coming years, and will soon become a common workplace benefit.

*Calculations are based on the average national salary of £27,600, an 8 hour work day and the assumption that all employees will choose to eat breakfast, either at home or in work.