Sandy was the instigator for my trip to Copenhagen. I knew her from when she had lived in New York. After she moved to Denmark, she wrote me to say that Copenhagen was the world capital of amazing Staff Meals. I took her advice and came over. The first place I visited was her workplace, Denmark’s leading Digital Agency, Magnetix. I spoke with Sandy about how the staff meal experience in Copenhagen is different from New York’s, and then spoke with Christina Rind, the COO of Magnetix, about their meal ritual.
Excerpts from conversation with Sandy - When I first moved from New York to Copenhagen I was blown away by the food they served at lunch for the staff. It’s incredible; you get such high-quality produce and a great variety of dishes all the time. Any time I’m out sick I feel sad about missing the lunch, so I definitely think it helps with the workplace attendance.
When I lived in NY I always ate at my desk, but here you’re a weirdo if you eat at your desk. I tried it here and people were concerned. Now I realize how nice it is to have the break and mix with your colleagues.
Excerpts from conversation with Christina - In Denmark it’s typical for a facility to feed employees, somewhere away from their desks, where they can meet together. When we reached 16 employees we decided to get our own chef, which is not that common—most places just have outside catering sent to a staff room—but we are a service provider and what we sell is ourselves, so we need good energy. That is why it’s important to eat really well; food is energy.
Everyone eats together, there is no arranged seating. We suggest to the staff to regroup at the lunch table to eat with people they don’t work with. This also helps ideas circulate around the workplace.
Laila has been the chef for 10 years. She made a cookbook. Every employee here takes 1 week off a year to put focus into a special project to broaden their horizons, and she did a cookbook that combines her recipes and our philosophies.
The kitchen also does great baking. Every morning there is freshly baked buns and rye bread and every Thursday is cake day, and never have they repeated a single cake for us!
There is an external rating agency that monitors workplace satisfaction called ‘Great place to work’ and one of the highest rated things from the staff is our canteen. The customers also love it; they plan their meetings to come by when lunch is being served. We do pay a lot of money for it, it’s one of the most expensive canteens I know of, but it’s worth every penny in employee and customer satisfaction. Everyone who comes in talks about it and I truly believe this canteen is the essence of getting good energy into our staff.
We also offer the staff take-away options at the end of the day, for which they can sign up and a package will be made for them. This helps eliminate nearly all the leftovers from being wasted.
We also do cooking classes as a team building program. A cook provides ingredients and recipes to each group they create and cook the dish, then we all meet up and eat it. This exercise parallels with what we do. It’s another way of understanding a goal and a briefing, which is similar to our work: if we don’t understand a brief from a client it would turn out like mush instead of a tasty dish.
green salad with bresaola and root vegetable chips
broccoli salad with cranberries, blueberries and pine nuts
beans and asparagus with red onion, pesto and pansies
tortillas with black beans, tomato and coriander
flash-fried tuna with soy
pork tenderloin with caper cream
chicken in curry with cabbage and rice
hay cheese / manchego cheese