“Without Spam, we wouldn’t have been able to feed our army.”
Nikata Khrushchev, ‘Kruschev Remembers’ (1970)
“You are very fortunate to be assigned to duty at Fortress Monroe on Chesapeake Bay; it is just the season for soft-shelled crabs, and hog fish have just come in, and they are the most delicious panfish you ever ate.”
General Winfield Scott, May, 1861, speaking to General Benjamin Butler
I was surprised to see there isn’t enough research on the role of food in the software development process.
Here are some observations that might be expanded later, on demand.
- In California, lunch is sometimes sponsored by the company.
- In Israel, in Hi-Tech, lunch is sponsored by the company, takes about 60 minutes and is eaten in Restaurants outside the office. The “Official” lunch break is supposed to be 30 minutes.
- Is this tradition coming from the earlier socialist roots of Israel? Maybe it stems from the army background of many developers.
Personally, after 10 years of fried eggplants, eggplants in tomato sauce, eggplants in Tahini, eggplants with vegetables and eggplants macaroni, I was very happy to start eating proper lunch in top restaurants.
- I once had to fly to a development center in Minsk,Belarus and eat borscht, for the first time in my life. I had to make sure the food level was comparable to other sites. It was a beautiful city and the borscht was better than I expected
- In Israel , the employees eat lunch together and it is a great opportunity for team building. In California developers eat alone at their desks, which I always found a bit sad.
- In California, 30 minutes lunch breaks are mandatory. It is similar to Israel.
- Whenever we had to work on Fridays, I used to bring an extra nice breakfast for everyone . It helps make the atmosphere more causal and expresses this is special occasion and not taken lightly by “management”.
- In Belarus (2006) the cost of developers lunch was ,in some cases, almost 25% of their overall compensation.
- No free beer in Israel. But Diet Coke is a must have. A top-notch espresso machine is quite common, in Israel. In the states horrible coffee is the norm anyway
- The cynical view is the employers use food as cheap way to get employees motivated. The reality is that it is not so cheap. Assuming cost of 800 NIS per month it is 2.5%-8% of the compensation.
- A less cynical view claims that the 60 minutes lunch breaks are critical to get developers to work 12 hours a day. In reality, few employees work 12 hours a day, and there is little correlation to the ones who have the longest lunch breaks
- Food does touch people emotions and demonstrates diversity. For example, a top engineer who suffers from Coeliac was extremely happy when one of our restaurants helped him select relevant dishes. At the same time, we helped Muslim engineers who needed to eat their lunch later than usual during Ramadan.
- We are all quite fortunate to work in such great conditions. Our peers in Medical establishments have to live with Hospital food, if they even get enough time for lunch break.