Free Bagels

Free food is a standard perk/fact in the modern software industry. It saves people time, lets them focus on work, and makes them feel appreciated.

It works for Google, but can it work for our academic lab of ~50 people? Will ravenous students eat infinitely many bagels? How much does it cost to provide free food to employees?

Experiment is the arbiter of truth.

An email made it known that 30+ bagels a day would appear in the breakroom for at least a week, and I kept a tally of bagel consumption over time. Sufficient attention to supply ensured that we never ran out.  Happy bagel eaters were skeptical at first (“Are these really free?”, “What’s with all the bagels?”, etc.), and then hopped aboard the plan.

The answer? ~27 bagels/day, or less than $15/day. Cream cheese is ~30x more popular than butter.

It’s a rather inexpensive experiment (bagels averaged <$0.50 cents each), and it’s provided the faculty with the information they need decide whether or not they could fund such a program.

Best of all, it was fun!

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