How To Set Up A Meal Stipend For Employees

Meal stipends are a great way to attract employees and promote wellness. Here's everything you need to know to get started.

7
 min. read
January 13, 2022
A group of individuals eat together around a round wooden table in the summer.

A meal stipend is a great way to show your employees that you care about their well-being. 

Not only do meal stipends ensure your employees are well-fed, but it also encourages them to take and enjoy their lunch breaks. 

Further, meal stipends have seen a significant increase in popularity over in-office lunches because they can easily accommodate all dietary preferences and requirements. 

It's clear that incorporating meal stipends is a no-brainer that’s sure to give your company a competitive edge. Let’s look at this in our all you need to know guide on setting up meal allowances in your company. 

What Is A Meal Stipend?

A meal stipend or meal allowance is essentially an amount of money given to employees to purchase food. Depending on the amount offered, this stipend could be used for the occasional lunch or monthly groceries. 

The stipend could also be used for dinner or even snacks for those employees who work from home. This benefit is extremely versatile, so it’s easy to see why it’s such a sought-after perk. 

It is usually paid to employees either daily, weekly or monthly (it is very seldomly paid annually) and may be in the form of cash or electronic payment

A meal stipend shouldn't be confused with the meal stipend paid to employees when traveling for work. A regular meal stipend is provided to employees by virtue of their employment with the company whether or not they travel.

The Benefits of Employee Meal Stipends 

Happier Employees 

Encouraging employees to take their lunch breaks and enjoy good food will make them feel valued, happier, and be far more productive. Studies show that 78% of employees reported an increase in productivity when receiving an acknowledgment.

Helps To Attract and Retain Employees 

This is a sought-after perk that not only attracts high-quality employees but helps to retain them too. 

Promotes Inclusivity

It’s not easy or inexpensive to cater for in-office lunches that meet the dietary requirements of the entire team. Offering a meal stipend is far less limiting.

Cost-Effective

A meal stipend is the most cost-effective solution when it comes to offering your employees food perks. You are able to swap out the preparation and food costs for a small administration fee.

What Do Employees Spend Their Meal Stipend On? 

There are a number of options for employees to spend their meal stipend on. The versatile nature is what makes the stipend such a sought-after perk. Some examples of what employees purchase with their stipend are: 

1.     Breakfast, lunch, dinner 

2.     Snacks for working at home 

3.     Groceries

4.     Coffee and tea 

5.     Smoothies 

6.     Juices 

7.     Takeout

Leading Companies That Offer Meal Stipends 

Some of the top companies in the world offer generous meal stipends to their employees. So, it’s easy to see why they are some of the most desired employers. Let’s take a look at some of these below.

1.     Snapchat employees have what is known as a ‘snap card.’ An amount of $16 is loaded onto the snap card daily for employees to buy lunch, snacks, or dinners. 

2.     MasterClass pays its employees $120 per month for an interim snack stipend since they started working from home. 

3.     The weight loss company Lose It! pays their employees $100 towards their monthly meals, whether lunch, dinner, or snacks.

Four Important Considerations When Setting Up A Meal Stipend In Your Company 

Determine Your Budget

This is the most important step when it comes to setting up a meal stipend in your company. A good place to start is to first assess how much money is available to pay the necessary number of stipends. 

This assessment is then brought in line with the cost of food in the area, taking into account how much it costs to get food from a local café, grocery store, or delivery service. 

At this stage, it is also important to determine what type of food the stipend will be for. For example, will it be for lunch or for in-office snacks? If the amount is for snacks, it can be significantly less than if it were for lunch. 

Remember that you can always start small and increase as you go! 

Determine Your Spend Cycle 

Once you have decided on the amount you are going to pay employees, you need to determine the timeline. For example, will you pay employees daily, weekly, monthly or yearly?

This, again, will depend on the nature of the stipend. For instance, if the stipend is for lunch, it’s usually advisable to pay this amount daily or weekly. 

But if the stipend is a contribution to monthly groceries or home office snacks, then monthly or yearly are great options. 

Again, this isn’t set in stone, and you can always obtain feedback from employees and change the cycle to suit their needs.  

Schedule A Launch Date 

It's a good idea to schedule a launch date and make sure everything is ready to go on said day. It is best to send out the employee email before the launch date. That way, your employees have an opportunity to give suggestions and raise concerns.  

Tell Your Employees About The Program  

Once you’ve got all the details sorted, go ahead and let your employees know! You can send an email or message over your chosen communication platform. 

When informing employees about your program, be sure to highlight all the important bits. These include:

1.     The meal stipend amount.

2.     How often they will receive it.

3.     How the system works. 

4.     Mention that this stipend is to help support and encourage mental and physical wellness.  

Final Thoughts

Meal stipends are a simple and cost-effective perk to offer your employees. But, despite their simplicity, it goes a long way in showing your employees that you value and appreciate them. 

If you’re looking to offer a lifestyle perk to your employees, this is a great option. So, be sure to follow this easy and informative guide on setting it up!