What's for lunch? The food traditions at NYC tech companies

by Anthony Sodd
September 9, 2016

Lunchtime is a time-honored tradition usually undertaken at the office — but it hasn't always been that way.

Back in the Middle Ages, before the invention of artificial light, lunch was the main meal of the day, and eaten with family. As factories grew larger, and farther away from peoples' homes, workers began to bring lunch with them. Over time, entrepreneurs or the factory owners themselves, began opening food stalls near factories, offering affordable eats away from home. 

Somehow, over time, that morphed into the three martini lunch.

Obviously, we're not in that period anymore, so, where are we now? Well, we thought we'd go to the very front lines of lunch — the lunchrooms at some of NYC's fastest growing tech companies, and see what they're up to.

 

ContextMedia, a healthtech company, has their lunches catered for their employees by CSAVOR, a high-end catering service committed to including premium, fresh ingredients from local sources.

“We considered several vendors, but ultimately chose CSAVOR because the food is not only delicious, but also farm-fresh, and made with local and organic ingredients,” Jed Cohen, Director of Operations, said. 

Heathy eating has been shown to improve productivity — but the benefits don't stop at the nutrients.

“Sharing meals brings us together every day, and allows for the office to take a collective deep breath,” Cohen said. “It fosters conversations about things other than work, and allows for connections and friendships to blossom.”

So, what are they actually eating at Context Media? The day we spoke with them the menu featured a mouthwatering spread. Main courses included Atlantic Cod with Jalapeño Cherry Tomatoes, Farfalle Alfredo with English Peas and Toasted Bread Crumbs, and a Roasted Chicken with Lemon Rosemary Reduction.

To top it off, there was a salad bar featuring baby spinach, smoked turkey, shredded seitan, shaved fennel, tear drop peppers, kadota figs, NY State double seeded wheat, edamame, quinoa, cherry tomatoes and watermelon radish, balsamic vinaigrette and red wine vinaigrette. Not too bad for an ordinary Wednesday.

What's the team's favorite food?

“We've been discovering new favorites!" Cohen said. "While you wouldn't necessarily order Southern Catfish with Creole Cream or Seitan Picadillo with Guajillo Tomato Salsa off a menu, when they are one of the options available, and smell wonderful, you try them! And, Taco Tuesdays are always a big hit.”

 

Flatiron Health is using technology to serve cancer patients, improve cancer treatment and accelerate research. And, when they’re not busy literally curing cancer, they eat like kings.

Every day, employees enjoy lunch catered from ZeroCater. What’s interesting about ZeroCater is they’re not really a catering company, and instead they partner with local chefs and restaurants to deliver personalized meals for their customers.

The office is also fully stocked with snacks and they have a tradition of choosing employee favorites — no matter how weird — when restocking. The last time I visited, they even had Gushers.

Once a month the company gets together and celebrates everyone’s birthday with breakfast foods delivered from Murray’s Bagels. They’ll get bagels, obviously, but also donuts, hot breakfast items and fresh fruit. It’s an interesting take on the tired tradition of office birthday cake.

But, when you ask them what their favorite food tradition is, it's pretty unanimously Taco Tuesdays. 

 

Movable Ink, an email marketing software and services company, takes an interesting approach to lunch. On many days, employees will order takeout and bring it back to the office, or use the company's well-stocked kitchen — a luxury popping up in some tech offices. But, it’s not like employees are left to fend for themselves.

“We always have a pretty well stocked supply of snacks around,” Carly Laniado, Talent Acquisition Manager at Movable Ink said. “There's usually guacamole, english muffins, cereal, berry toast, peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches, etc.”

The company also hosts sponsored group lunch outings they call 'Movabites.’ Every month employees sign up to be placed into random groups of four. That group then goes to lunch together, and can expense the cost of it to the company.

“This is an awesome opportunity to meet people you wouldn't ordinarily meet and learn about other departments and initiatives,” Laniado said.

The company actually has a whole slew of food-related events they host, including a Soup Club and something they call Go Go Curry, which is reserved for days of the month that end in five.

And, as healthy as the company is, an occasional treat is always welcome. 

"I think our collective favorite food is these amazing doughnuts from Dough across the street from our office," Laniado said. "Every celebration, meeting, and event, these delicious pillows of cake and frosting some how magically show up."

 

Know of a company that deserves coverage? Let us know or tweet us @builtinnewyork.

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