A Simple Ice Breaker to Use Over Lunch

Team Building Over a Meal Is an Opportunity to Help Employees Bond

young business entrepreneurs celebrating a success
••• Sylvain Sonnet / Getty Images

Here's a fun icebreaker that warms up a group and enables participants at a meal to get to know each other quickly. Usually, ice breakers are recommended that bring participants together into a discussion about the content of a training or team building session. These help participants shift their attention to the topic on hand.

But, there is a place for a fun lunch meeting icebreaker whose only purpose is to help session attendees know and appreciate each other. Here is a lunch or dinner meeting icebreaker that requires some of your time in preparation, but it is quick and fun to carry out at your meeting.

You can develop your own fun meeting icebreakers that help people meet and greet, too. The how-to instructions are complete, reliable, and you can trust them to help you develop your own team building icebreakers. It's more simple than you think.

Pick Up a Plate Lunch Meeting Icebreaker

It is an easy-to-lead, fun lunch meeting icebreaker. Like the Candy Sort Lunch Meeting Icebreaker, this icebreaker takes some preparation in advance, but not a lot of time during the meeting. This lunch meeting icebreaker is best used when employees are gathering to share a meal. 

Whether it's your celebration safety pizza luncheon or an employee recognition banquet, a hot dog summer motivational lunch, a potluck dinner or a celebrate Thanksgiving luncheon, your eating and greeting opportunities have something in common at a meal—plates for each diner.

They likely have a second commonality, too. Employees who know each other best tend to sit with each other. Employees from the same department tend to arrive together and file into the first available seats.

It makes the shared meal a lost opportunity to encourage team building. It also sabotages the goal of encouraging employees to get to know each other across departments and job functions. The employer's reason for providing most meals at work is to thank employees and recognize their valuable work and contributions. Employers want to thank employees for a job well done and provide team-building with the other employees. Don't lose the opportunity.

You can change these dynamics and build teams of people who don't usually work together by taping a number or a letter to the bottom of each plate. You'll need to decide how many total employees will attend your dining event.

You'll also need to decide, in advance, how many coworkers will sit at each table. Then make enough stickers to label every plate with a table number. You'll want to place a number on each table, too, or you will have a milling mess when employees with the same number try to find each other. (For good conversation, aim for 6-8 employees at a table, but 4 works well, too.)

Mix the Labeled Plates Up

Finally, because employees, as mentioned, tend to arrive at luncheons with their friends, you'll want to mix the plates up so that the numbers or letters that match are not stacked together in the pile of plates, but rather randomly, to facilitate coworkers meeting.

Announce to the employees that, in the interests of team building and facilitating the opportunity for them to get to know people with whom they don't usually work, you have labeled the bottom of each plate with a number. Tell them to join the employees at the table that is labeled with their number from the bottom of their plate.

And again, you can simply ask people to introduce themselves to their assigned table. Or, if you want to guide the discussion, you can develop a series of questions for people to answer such as those listed below.

Keep in mind that, with this approach to a meeting icebreaker, people will want to eat hot food, so the more formal discussion is better left until after the meal. Your participants will thank you; no one likes to talk to coworkers with their mouths full of food.

Sample Questions or Discussion Points to Use Might Include:

  • Describe how and when you came to work at this company.
  • Share your biggest current challenge you are experiencing at work.
  • Share two things about yourself that you think no one at the table will know.
  • Describe a positive customer interaction you have experienced.
  • Tell your coworkers something you appreciate about your company.
  • Tell your tablemates the goal you have for your career.
  • Ask people to describe the kids of coworker behaviors that drive them up a wall.

You will find additional ideas for questions in icebreaker questions for meetings and fun and funny icebreaker questions.