Teams today are different.  They are diverse, digital, dispersed and dynamic.  However, the core set of fundamentals that holds teams together is universal, like food. 

Richard J Hackman researched teams in the 1970s, and he discovered that personality or behaviour doesn’t matter as much whether a team has compelling direction, a strong structure, and a supportive context. – HBR 

“Food brings people together on many different levels. It’s nourishment of the soul and body; it’s truly love”. – Giada De Laurentiis 

Creating platforms for opportunities to build a shared mindset can help overcome pitfalls due to a lack of communication. Team building is a critical aspect of organizational growth as it can have a dominoes effect that is powerful with long term implications.  Industry experts consistently nudge HR into team building as it is central to adaptability, innovation, employee morale and performance.  It is key to developing layers of communication and collaboration within the organisation.  Organisations that engage in team building exercises regularly benefit with less absenteeism, decreased conflict and enhanced loyalty.  The teams also begin to build a good energy, improved creativity and commitment that builds a great work culture.  Studies have shown that communication plays a critical role in building successful teams and the way employees communicate can be an important predictor of a company’s success.  In a study conducted, it was found that a team’s engagement and energy outside formal meetings were the best predictors of productivity. 

Here, we offer some innovative team building exercises that revolve around food, our universal bridge. It’s phenomenal how people change around food, especially when food has a special meaning or significance to them. It is rightly considered to be the ultimate equalizer. Everyone has a connection over food, it is loved, it impacts health and plays a central role in all celebrations.

Indulge in gourmet meals from different cuisines, prepared by our top-graded chefs.  

So, if you are lacking ideas, and you think your team needs a wake-up call or some motivation to enhance productivity, all you need to do is depend on the magic of the palate or the plate.   

1. Theme based lunch

Ask team members to bring a dish that represents their country’s culture.  They can talk about the historical significance of the dish or share the recipe with other team members. You may add other fun elements like a matching hairdo or a fun song to match the theme.  This would create a buzz among the team and change the way they communicate. It offers enabling conditions to collaborate and engage in a variety of ways. If you want to get specific, you  may choose for it to be umami induced, or broth-based food or just barbecue. 

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” Orson Welles 

Plan your next team lunch here

2. Experience Exchange circle:  

This could be a prelude to a brain-storming session, and it could help to break the ice. Ask your team members to talk about their ‘greatest adventures with food’ For example, if someone tried frog legs for the first time on their honeymoon or if they would ever eat worms in Thailand?   These exchanges offer insight into travel experiences and a different understanding of the person. It’s a great icebreaker to foster conversation and build connections.  

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” Virginia Woolf 

3. Remake your family favourite: 

Everyone has a favourite dish growing up that will throw insight into childhood memories.  Ask them to try to make it the same way they remember it for a team lunch. Discussions on a family favourite could lead to conversation about family, important memories, and experiences.  These experiences could offer insight on the different dynamics of the team.  It could tell you stories of Ramen or elaborate biryani over a big pot.  The possibility of connections is endless. 

“Laughter is brightest where food is best’’ – unknown 

Care for your gut health. Go through our gut-friendly gourmet plan.

4. Bring your signature dish:  

 Everyone tries their hand at cooking at some point in their lives. If they are good at it, of course they would love to brag about it.   Encouraging people to bring in their signature dishes and talk about it, provides for more opportunities for conversations and great story exchanges.  It could trigger animated discussions on first-tries, kitchen disasters and successes.  The goal is to bond and build understanding, this could be a great place to begin. 

‘’Cooking is all about people.  Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together.” Guy Fieri 

 5. Food face-off:   

Employees could be divided into teams, offering various platforms for engagement.  Either teams can cook up a storm, if the office has the infrastructure or you could have a debate with food as the topic.  Examples like ‘why is Chinese food more healthy than Japanese food?’  ‘Is barbecue really healthy and why?’ or ‘the best restaurants offering umami are only in Singapore Vs Hong Kong’.  This kind of activity garners for high engagement and leaders should nudge all team members to participate. Food lovers believe that any activity that involves cooking together can be quite inspirational, light-hearted and it brings out the best in individuals as team players. 

 “People who love to eat are always the best people” Julia Child 

Plan your next team lunch here

6. Start a food garden: 

 Another powerful team building food exercise is encouraging employees to start a food garden together as a mini-project.  This could trigger a host of discussions and opportunities to collaborate.  Employees could be challenged to find spaces and come up with innovative ideas to convert those spaces to kitchen gardens.  The produce could lead to a host of other team-building activities, like ‘cultivation day’ or ‘weeding day’ or ‘pest control’ day.   

“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.” Lewis Grizzard 


The focus of team building is to enhance communication between members.  Effective communication is core to the growth of the company and to the emergence of innovation within the company.  When employees are thrown together in an informal setting, especially around a universal connector like food, the tones and energy around communication are different. Some industry experts believe that this makes a more significant impact on employee relations than achievement or talent.  

Sherral Joseph

Author Sherral Joseph

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