Sandwiches are the lecture of meal options during a training. Here are 6 alternatives.


Yes, training should first and foremost be about behavior change, skill transfer to on-the-job performance and ultimately it should be about impact to the organization. That doesn’t mean it should be boring – either in the delivery of the content or in the food options that we offer our learners.

It seems to me that sandwiches have become the lecture of meal options Рa safe choice, everyone else is doing it, usually pretty boring and just not very memorable.  

Just like learners shouldn’t be expected to put up with bland, boring lectures when they’ve invested their time in attending a training session, lunch options during a training program don’t need to be boring either. While this may seem like a small, trivial point, lunch can actually go a long way in setting the tone for how an afternoon shapes up. Learning doesn’t happen in isolation, and everyone needs to eat. Why not surprise and delight as opposed to putting something in front of your learners that is simply bearable?

Here are six alternatives to sandwich options for your next training program:

  1. Lunch on your own. Just like learners prefer to have some autonomy over what they’re learning in your session, a lot of times they’d like to have autonomy over what they eat as well. If you’re located in an area with a few lunch options in walking distance, putting the decision in the hands of your learners can be a good thing. Plus, if they’re coming from out of town, it’s an additional opportunity for your learners to get to know the locale a little better.
  2. Taco bar. A lot of hotels and local businesses offer this as an option, and often there are vegetarian options in addition to traditional beef or chicken with which you fill your tortillas.
  3. Pizza. This used to be a fairly common go-to option, but I haven’t seen as much pizza these days. I’m a little biased here in suggesting pizza because I could honestly eat it 3 times a day, 7 days a week. I definitely think one thing this world needs more of is pizza.
  4. Make-your-own-salad. I was in a meeting last December in Washington, DC, and the meeting organizer surprised and impressed everyone with this simple option. There were plenty of protein options for carnivores, omnivores and herbivores¬†and it was a nice, light option that didn’t have everyone falling asleep in the afternoon.
  5. Breakfast for lunch. Because who doesn’t want more opportunities to eat breakfast?
  6. Food trucks. This was something the Eye Bank Association of America did for all attendees at a conference in Portland, OR, several years ago. Lots of variety, a non-traditional approach and an opportunity to taste some of the best that the city had to offer.

Maybe I’ve just been to too many training events in the past three weeks where I’ve been subjected to boxed lunches with sandwiches, platters with cut up sandwiches and wraps, and make-your-own sandwich platters. On the other hand, the small details that go in to putting on a training event matter, and can go a long way in setting the tone for a learner’s overall experience.

What do you think? Does the lunch option matter?


8 thoughts on “Sandwiches are the lecture of meal options during a training. Here are 6 alternatives.

  1. This is a great thread. Food DOES make a difference, and it also continues to help participants feel welcomed and valued when they have the choice in what they are eating and/or feel like they can also have any dietary needs met without bringing their own food. At ATD this year one of the vendors was EZcater which is a service that will manage all the delivery of lunch so you can focus on doing the training. It also expands the options to any restaurant you might want to partner with – not just the basic few. I had Cuban food at a training one evening and it was the BEST! Assemble yourself, veggie, meat, gluten free options – and it was delicious.

  2. Hi Brian! I wish I could add a photo of the lovely jewel-like bento boxes that we served at a recent training in Tokyo. Of course, a bento box may well be the lecture of meal options in a Japanese context…

  3. I love it Brian! I am soooooo with you, food makes a big difference in a training (I once got dinged for not having any chocolate available after lunch). My only addition is that pizza by itself is not a meal. When I used to live out of a suitcase we would often get stacks of pizza and call it a day. When we all developed scurvy, we decided that some fruit and things might be a nice addition to help round out those gorgeous triangles of perfection. But, back to your point, that pizza sure beat the heck out of slices of ham on white bread that I ate for 3 weeks in Mexico. What a cultural travesty!

    • When I was in 4th grade (a simpler time in an age before that whole FDA food pyramid thing, when ketchup was a vegetable), my beloved teacher, Mr. O’Laughlin, taught the whole class a valuable life lesson that I abide by to this day. He pointed out that pizza has all four food groups (sauce as a vegetable, crust covering breads/cereals, cheese as the dairy and pepperoni for a meat), and as such we should go home and demand such a wholesome dinner every night from our parents.

      But, to make sure no training participants complain about scurvy, we may want to add a Hawaiian pizza to the order. Pineapple = vitamin C, right?

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