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How to Use a Snack Experience to Improve Business Negotiations

Monday August 7, 2023

Virginia Woolf was on to something when she said, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” At Teamraderie, we agree wholeheartedly! Food can serve as the foundation of successful partnerships, allowing organizations to improve business negotiations by taking them from mundane to memorable.

Teamraderie offers a variety of food-centric experiences, from ice cream making to cheese tasting. We don’t offer these experiences simply because they taste good (but trust us – they do!), but because there is significant research that suggests food can help to boost cooperation and increase community.

Food has been an important aspect of community since the dawn of time. Research from the University of Oxford uncovered that “the more often people eat with others, the more likely they are to feel happy and satisfied with their lives.” It’s easy to imagine the benefits of fostering community in business settings. If sharing a meal can increase happiness and camaraderie, it’s no wonder that organizations are looking to find ways to further incorporate food into the business setting. 

Teamraderie has based much of our experience building on research conducted by the University of Chicago. Researchers Ayelet Fishbach and Kaitlin Woolley conducted a food-focused study, seeking to understand one specific question: Could the way a meal is served and consumed boost cooperation? In the study, participants were paired together for a lab experiment that involved negotiation. The participants were offered a snack consisting of chips and salsa. Some participants were offered the snack to share with their partner, while others were offered individual servings.

Subsequently, a union negotiation scenario was introduced, where one individual from each pair was randomly designated as the management representative, and the other assumed the role of a union representative. Their objective was to determine an acceptable wage for the union within the span of 22 negotiation rounds, with each round symbolizing a day of negotiation. The participants were also made aware that a costly union strike was scheduled to commence on the third round, which would result in exorbitant expenses for both parties involved. This served as a driving force compelling the parties to swiftly arrive at an agreement.

The results were significant. Teams that shared the bowls of chips and salsa experienced an average of nine strike days to finalize an agreement, whereas pairs who had their own bowls lasted four days longer. This disparity was financially significant: the teams who shared their snack saved a hypothetical $1.5 million for both parties combined. “This phenomenon, the researchers write, was unrelated to how two people in a negotiating team felt about each other. Rather, what mattered was how well they coordinated their eating.” There’s no doubt – those were some meaningful shared bowls of chips and salsa! 

It might be hard to imagine quantifying the value of a communal meal (or snack!), but the value itself is in the bond that’s created. Fishbach attributes the success of these meals to the role that food plays in shaping trust and cooperation. The study found “that when negotiators on separate sides of an argument consumed similarly, they felt closer and were able to come to a faster resolution that was beneficial for both parties. Negotiations by nature contain incentives that could foster competition. Our research suggests one way to establish a positive connection and increase cooperation between negotiating parties is to have them consume similar foods” (A recipe for friendship: Similar food consumption promotes trust and cooperation). When negotiating parties consume similar foods, and do so in a coordinated, communal setting, the food itself is shared and nobody is competing for the last bite – literally and figuratively!

In today’s world, many of us are working on distributed teams, and the idea of sharing a meal seems impossible. This is where a Teamraderie experience can change the game. We understand the value of sharing a meal in person and have worked with researchers to find ways to solve this problem. By participating in a Teamraderie food-focused experience, your teams CAN share a meal. Teamraderie will design the event, send each participant their food in advance, and facilitate a platform that allows for a communal meal – regardless of where you’re located.

Interested in improving team camaraderie, business negotiations, or just having a unique food experience with colleagues? Explore our experiences today to learn more!

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