Retailers have re-discovered their mate: Restaurants. Until its meatball mess, Ikea was known for its café-home furnishings combo. Walmart and Target, for their snacks-while-shopping lures. Now, Tommy Bahama claims its recently introduced in-store eateries generate twice the sales per square foot of apparel.
Another duo follows: News organizations and politicians (and anyone else who’s got a soapbox). Today, frequent breakfasts with Paul or Larry or Bob, when combined with The Wall Street Journal or The Christian Science Monitor, have a certain panache and appeal. Not to mention frequent business conversations and occasional deals.
Once upon a time, though, establishments like the late-great Marshall Field’s as well as Neiman Marcus built dining places inside. The Walnut Room and Zodiac restaurant were, respectively, part of the experience. Then, hours-long in-store shopping was the norm. There were no cyber worlds, no flash sales. It was a time to relax, to be with friends, reflect on the day, and, oh yes, buy what you needed as well as feed your selves.
The power of a meal to begin (and continue) relationships is one we all acknowledge. Inside organizations, especially in buildings with cafeterias, many leaders do take the opportunity of a mid-day snack or lunch or break to sit and listen to colleagues and employees. All good.
But why not more often, more off-the-cuff dialogues over a meal or a cuppa? Sure, there’s always a tendency to clam up when a C-suite executive meanders in and sits at a table. Or to resort to small talk. Or to studiously avoid the table or make excuses about getting back to work. Yet many workers are yearning for just that kind of connection, to understand leaders and their motivations. Study after study shows a real need to personalize the workplace, to forget a relationship with their managers and executives
A bit of orchestration, at first, might be necessary. Creating natural venues to have a conversation can be staged, first (especially around food!). Later, more natural and impromptu opportunities occur as colleagues and coworkers and chiefs get to know each other.
After all, it started with the Old and the New Testament: Breaking bread is about the food and the fellowship.