If you are in the job market, be extremely careful if a recruiter or member of HR tries to promote “free lunch” as part of a company’s benefits package. This is a warning sign that you may be about to sign on with a workhorse.
It sounds wonderful at first! “Oh!” you think, “how cool! I won’t have to bring a lunch and/or go out to lunch every day, which will be hugely convenient, and I won’t have to spend money on lunch, which means I’ll have more spending money to waste on frivolous, depreciating liabilities!”
But what you may be missing is that offering catered lunches is a great way for a company to keep you in the building. When things get busy (and they will), you will be expected to eat lunch at your desk. The company may even offer catered dinner in the evenings, which is often a sign that your company expects that you will frequently be at the office late into the evening. It’s much more economically feasible for a company to spend $10 per person per day on a meal than to pay them an extra $20, 30, 40, or even 50 per hour of overtime that they work.
In the interest of fairness, I do know of one person who works for a company that offers catered lunches and does not expect ridiculous overtime. There are probably a few more. However, most companies that offer free lunch, such as the first one for which I worked, will expect you to be in the office for much longer than eight hours a day.
As with all things in life, do your due diligence. Don’t accept a position with a company based solely on one apparent benefit.