We have written in the past about the importance of scheduling breaks during meetings. Now we want to go a step further to investigate what is on the table beside the coffee pot and hot water for tea.

Sometimes the answer is, nothing!

Often the only food offered is a box of inexpensive cookies or a bag of donuts, high in calories and low in nutritional value.

Clearly, no one has put much thought into how the presence or absence of snacks can affect the productivity and good will of meeting participants.

Sharing food is a way that human beings say “Welcome,”We value your presence,” and in the case of meetings, “We need you to be focused and alert, so we have provided some treats to fuel your mind and body.”

We must remember that food and water are basic human needs. When these are neglected, people can become quarrelsome, impatient, uncooperative and unable to think clearly.

Another factor in the “food equation” is the diversity of individual food preferences and requirements of meeting participants. Vegetarian? Vegan? Kosher? No salt? Dairy free? Nut allergies? Gluten free? No sugar? Organic? Locally grown?

And remember, we are only talking about the refreshments served during the breaks, not the main meals!

Here some suggestions for turning the snack table into a source of positive energy for the group:

  • Offer a variety of beverages, including
    • Regular and decaf coffee
    • Black, green and herbal teas
    • Milk and non-dairy creamer
    • Water
    • Fruit juice
  • Offer a variety of snacks, such as
    • Energy bars
    • Fresh or dry fruit
    • Raw vegetables (depending on the time of day)
    • Nuts
    • Popcorn
    • Hard boiled eggs

For special occasions, consider these options

  • Local specialties, preferably not laden with sugar
  • Home-made treats prepared by meeting participants
  • Chocolate!

Key message: Put some thought into the snacks offered at your meetings. Poll the attendees about their preferences and dietary needs. Vary the selection to surprise and delight your participants.

What are the refreshments you love (or hate) to see on the Coffee Break table?