When most people think of team building exercises, they picture cliché trust falls and compliment circles. If you’ve worked in corporate long enough, you’ve likely grown bored of such exercises.
The good news is there are more exciting options for you and your team to try, and many of them involve our favorite word: food.
Demand for team building cooking classes is rising. These food-based events bring team members together to have fun, foster collaboration, build trust, and drive friendly competition.
Such events are even more crucial in the age of remote working, where employees sometimes work across different time zones.
When everyone is far away, food can bring them together in the comfort of their homes. We’ll touch on virtual team building cooking classes later in this article.
The benefits and importance of team building activities
To understand how food can bring team members closer together, let’s first understand why team building activities are essential.
Help welcome new employees
If you’ve just hired a bunch of new people in a short period, everyone’s likely feeling out of place at first. Team building exercises help you welcome them into the fold and help them understand their role on the team.
With remote working having separated so many teams, bringing everyone together in one location for a fun-filled day can help people build rapport and deepen their work relationships.
Learn new skills
In a team building cooking class, everyone gets to learn something new, such as how to cook different dishes without burning anything, how to make various treats, and how to pair different wines.
Drive friendly competition
Friendly competition among teammates levels everyone up, drives tangible results, and displays sportsmanship. Tying the high score to a meaningful prize such as cash, extra leave days, or company swag boosts company affinity.
Why choose a food-based team building event?
Food is a great theme for team building because everyone can relate to it. We all eat every day, we have our favorite and not-so-favorite dishes, and everyone has varying levels of cooking skills.
What’s more, we all have a deeply personal relationship with food. Maybe you gravitate towards chicken pasta because your grandma made it for you as a child. Maybe you avoid seafood because you’re allergic to fish.
Whatever your story is, there’s a way to design the perfect team building exercise to cater to those needs and nostalgic desires.
And such an event produces two outcomes: increased team cohesion and delicious food for everyone to eat! Not only will your team feel closer, but they can also share and enjoy the fruits of their labor with everyone else.
Types of food-based team building activities
Food is diverse, and there is an unlimited number of team building events you can host around food. Here are just a few of our favorites:
Chocolate making team building events
At chocolate-making classes, your team can learn how to make different types of chocolate treats, create chocolate art, and share their sweet creations with everyone.
You can buy the ingredients fresh and prepare the chocolate cakes, truffles, and other treats from scratch or you can send everyone the kit to make it from home, if virtual.
At the end of the event, your team will understand the history of chocolate, the process from bean to bar, how to crack cocoa beans, and how to melt, pour, and decorate chocolate treats.
Pizza team building events
Organizing a pizza party can bring everyone out of their homes for an evening of fun with their colleagues.
But making pizza from scratch lets you see who really knows their pizza. Pair the evening with some drinks and games for a good time.
Pasta making team building events
Pasta has a long, rich history — and while most people have a definite favorite (penne 🙋🏽♂️) and a deal-breaker (spaghetti 🙅🏽♂️), it’s even more fascinating learning how pasta is made from scratch.
At a pasta cooking class, your team can learn how to whip up fresh pasta from scratch, create delicious sauces to go with the pasta, and understand its various pairings.
Tapas team building event
For tighter timetables, try tapas. Tapas are appetizers (think finger foods on a platter) that you can whip up quickly, but they still foster collaboration among your team.
As with the previous examples, not only do you get to drive greater rapport between everyone, but you also get to munch on tasty appetizers afterward.
Vegetarian cooking classes
Looking to introduce healthier diets to your team? Consider doing a vegetarian or vegan cooking class for your next team building event.
In such a cooking class, your team can learn how to prepare scrumptious, gluten-free, and dairy-free dishes to eat and take home to their families.
Your team will learn the health and environmental benefits of a vegan lifestyle, get an overview of protein and fiber sources, and master at least one vegan or vegetarian recipe.
It’s also a great opportunity to dispel certain myths about the taste, quality, or benefits of vegan or vegetarian dishes.
Cocktail making classes
Cocktails are tasty, boozy, and take skill to create. You can make them in all sorts of flavors, from daiquiris (my favorite) to martinis and Long Islands.
Incorporating craft cocktails into your list of team building exercises unearths the hidden bartenders among your team, fosters collaboration, and helps everyone have a good time.
Wine tasting team building events
What better way to loosen everyone up to share their true feelings than with wine?
Tasting different types of wine can teach your team about terroirs, grape varietals, wine pairings, and historical vineyards.
Feeding the needy
If you’re trying to foster more empathy and goodwill within your team, there’s no better way than to round up everyone to go feed those in need.
Volunteering at soup kitchens, renting a food truck, or doing food dropoffs in the company van can help everyone bond over good deeds, reduce the amount of suffering in the world, and earn good karma. Plus, it’s great PR.
To really foster teamwork, join a cooking class with no recipe at all. At such an event, you divide your team members into groups and allow them to choose which recipes they want to make.
Each team gets a budget and a deadline by which to produce a delicious three-course meal. Your team’s creativity and skill will shine here as everyone digs into their mental food banks to suggest the best dishes.
Where can you host a team building cooking class?
Depending on the type of cooking class you want, you can book different venues from cooking studios and culinary schools to resorts and restaurants.
These venues have the right equipment to cater to a large group of people, and many of their rental packages also include a chef, cleaning crew, and equipment.
Check out our in-depth guide to hosting a cooking class for more venue options.
How to set up a team building cooking class
If you’ve decided to go with food for your next team building event, follow these six steps to pull it off without a hitch:
- Understand your needs and constraints
- Book a team building food event
- Create games and other activities
- Communicate the details with your team
- Attend and document your team building event
- Source feedback and plan the next one
#1 Understand your needs and constraints
Firstly, what are you trying to accomplish with your team building event? Nailing your goals makes everything else easier. For example, you might be:
- Dealing with deep distrust between your team members
- Looking to celebrate a retiring employee at your company
- Looking for a way to catch up after working remotely for a while
- A fast-growing company with new employees feeling out of place
Whatever the goal is, align your team on it so you can pick the right event to meet those needs.
Secondly, what are your constraints?
- Do you have a budget for the event?
- Is there enough time to plan it in advance, or is it urgent?
- Is everyone in the same location, or will you need to fly in people from other places? If so, do they need visas and invitation letters?
Knowing your time and money constraints helps you plan accordingly.
#2 Book a team building food event
With a better understanding of your needs and constraints, it’s time to book your event. A quick Google search should turn up numerous team building event ideas in your area around food.
If you can’t find anything you like, speak to us to design a custom event around your needs.
#3 Create games and other activities
Apart from food, you can entertain your team through games, ice-breakers, and competitions. These activities add flavor to the event and make it more memorable.
Card games, board games, and pool are all great ways to liven things up and create healthy competition. Ensure your prizes are meaningful — think extra leave days, cash prizes, and company swag.
#4 Communicate the details with your team
Communication is key to pulling off a successful event. Your team members each have work, family, and personal obligations to attend to, and giving them time to plan for your event increases attendance and participation rates.
Notify your team via Slack, Teams, Zoom, email, or your corporate WhatsApp group. Offer any assistance around travel, accommodation, or pending workloads.
On the day of the event, continue communicating with everyone to let them know the schedule and where to meet.
#5 Attend and document your team building cooking event
This is the fun part! Hire a photographer or videographer to document the event, or have someone from the team take pics and videos for future use.
The content you’ll generate from this event can go on your social media channels, help with hiring and culture initiatives, and drive FOMO to ensure other team members don’t miss the next event.
#6 Source feedback to plan the next one
After the team building event, do a quick survey to understand what your team enjoyed and what to improve.
Keep the survey open-ended to get as many authentic answers as possible, and allow for anonymous responses if needed. Use the survey answers to inform your next team building event.
What about a virtual team building cooking event?
Perhaps your team works across different locations, and meeting up would be expensive and time-consuming to coordinate.
In that case, a virtual team building cooking event is a great alternative. Virtual cooking classes open the experience to more people at the same time.
Online team building events: how do they work?
In an online cooking class or food event, a professional chef, bartender, or sommelier guides your team along on different activities through Zoom, Teams, Skype, or Google Meet.
Ideally, you’d send your team the ingredients for these activities well in advance. You’d also let them know which equipment they need. Alternatively, you can give each team member cash or a retail voucher to source the ingredients and equipment locally.
Then, set up a specific date and time for the event and send everyone a link to it. Keep things fresh — bring in games, contests, and ice-breaker questions to help everyone warm up to each other.
Host a culinary team building event today
Culinary team building programs and corporate cooking classes are effective ways to help teams bond.
Through these events, you can nourish hearts and stomachs at the same time and foster trust in a fun, practical way.
At Good Food Studio, we offer different corporate team building exercises centered around food, drink, and games.