Juha-Matti Santala
Community Builder. Dreamer. Adventurer.

Food Connects People - How to Hack Your Community with Food

_One of the things I learned early on was that everybody has to eat. Most people eat lunch and it means taking a “mandatory” break from work and the busy-ness of business life. I’ve used that knowledge to my advantage by making a lot of connections by asking people for lunch. They don’t have to make room for meeting me and people are often happier when they eat.

Here are some of the ways you can build your networks or strengthen your community with food.

Community/Company Breakfast

For the past few years I worked in a startup community Boost Turku. Every now and then we brought our alumni teams together for a shared breakfast. It was an opportunity for them to share what they are doing, ask for help or talk about the entrepreneurial life.

At Smartly.io we started our week by eating breakfast together as a team every Monday. During the breakfast, we went through some updates on how the business is going on. One of the concepts we piloted was assigning two people from the team each week to take care of the breakfast. So every week there was an unique twist.

If you have been active in the startup scene, you have most likely seen breakfast events all around. It’s one of the easiest ways to bring people together to share ideas and meet each other.

Lunch Lottery

Your community is growing and more and more people don’t know each other. A lot of valuable tacit knowledge is lost when new and old people don’t meet. This can cause you to miss opportunities to to re-invent the wheel.

In Lunch Lottery, a computer pairs up people with each other once a month. These people then eat lunch together. It’s simple but fun! Often people also share photos or stories with the community.

How you mix-and-match people is up to you. You can have everyone in the same pool or you can divide people based on seniority. The latter enables you to match seniors or alumni with new people. Or you could help people working in different departments to meet each other.

If your community is in Slack, I recommend checking out Donut.ai. Another great app to look at is Workwell. It’s less about lottery and more about matching people with shared interests within a company.

Lunch Circle

I love meeting new people but finding great people is sometimes difficult. I have vast networks and I know my friends have amazing friends. Couple of years ago I decided that I want to meet new people on a casual no-agenda way. That’s when I started my first Lunch Circle.

Gather together a small group of friends and agree to eat lunch together once a month. The gist is that each time, one member of the circle brings an extra person to join the lunch. This way you get to meet people your friends love.

We ran it with three people and every time the fourth person was from one of our networks.

This is a great, personal way to expand your networks. It works especially well when you move to a new city or country. And everyone benefits by getting to meet new people.

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