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Admin Pro Forum

Tell overweight staffer she orders too much food?

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Question: “I am the office manager at an accounting firm.  Since everyone puts in such long hours and a full day on Saturdays, the office picks up lunch every Saturday. I have one staff member that is a bit overweight and always orders way too much food for lunch every Saturday.  A few of the partners have commented to each other or to me about the amount of food that is ordered (out of concern for cost and staff well being).  What would be the best way to handle this?  No one here is her life coach, so is it even acceptable to say something or acknowledge it?” — Elizabeth Lamb

 

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Judy April 26, 2011 at 3:08 pm

I often order lunches for our sales team. I found a few great places that supply box lunches that include sandwich, chips, salad, fruit, dessert and drink. Each restaurant has different lunch choices. The lunches are tastefully presented and can easily be eaten at your desk, in a meeting or in the lunch room. Experiment with different places. Most of the luches I purchase are under $10.00 per person and there is more than enough to eat.

If sandwiches or wraps are included I choose a variety so each person will be able to find something to their liking.

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Admin123 April 16, 2010 at 3:50 pm

I don’t know how it was about weight in the first place. Why even feel guilty about addressing if ordering too much food is the problem. If it was a skinny person, it would still be the same isssue. That is, keep the budget to a base max dollar amount per person and when this is expense, for auditing purposes, state you will need to provide names of people that lunch was ordered for. This makes it business, not personal which should be the focus here. I’m not an overweight person, work out everyday and watch my portion sizes, so no, it’s just trying to keep it on target of what the issue is here. :)

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Anonymous Non Admin April 13, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Dr. Still Standing – BRAVO!

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Anonymous Non Admin April 13, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Evette, our office has “Greedy Gus” on staff too and I just don’t know how you can address it unless it is one on one.

Patty, I think it is better to have some leftovers anyway don’t you? Just not excessively. You made a good point that if there is a problem perhaps the writer should offer to assist or give more guidance on what is expected in the future. Can’t fix it if you don’t make the effort!

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Anonymous Non Admin April 13, 2010 at 12:17 pm

I work for a non-profit and on occasion we have a bit of leftover food (such as Grinders) and what we do is figure the cost and offer them for sale to staff to take home and reheat for dinner. We’ve found this to be a great way to recoup costs. Also, in the case this can’t be done we offer the items as afternoon office snacks at no cost.

I think that everyone seems to agree that this person’s weight should absolutely not be mentioned and an office wide notice should be given.

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Evette April 7, 2010 at 6:56 pm

Thanks for sharing because sometimes in our haste or irritation we don’t think about what our co-workers could be going through.

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Evette April 7, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Rather than make it a weight issue management should set a maximum expense / reimbursement amount.

Interestingly enough my office is experiencing a similar issue. We have an executive assistant who is not only morbidly obese but relishes ordering food. For a meeting with 40 attendees she will order for a headcount of 60 or 70. Sadly, she interrupts meetings to ask if they are almost done or she waits outside of conference rooms for meetings to end so that she can collect the leftovers (which are always substantial). Rather, than put them in the breakroom for other employees to enjoy she takes the food to her desk and eats on it for the remainder of the day eating even though we have a no eating at workstations policy. To top it off, she will take whatever is left home for her and her husband to eat. Numerous people have commented about it.

At one of our other locations, no matter how much food is ordered they always seem to run out before everyone has eaten because employees have a tendency to take more than necessary. The majority of those employees or not overweight but simply taking advantage of free food being offered. Clearly, management needs to address this as well.

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Patty April 6, 2010 at 9:46 am

I say, if you’re so concerned with the quantity ordered, order it yourself and stop being so judgmental. I have been cooking for over 40 years and still cook too much food at most meals.

I also order business lunches for two separate meetings, every two weeks and most times there is food left over. No one can judge how much another person will eat, especially at a working lunch. If the food is catered from a restaurant, you tell them how many people will be there, and they decide how much to send.

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DrStillStanding April 3, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Here is one situation I have learned to deal with years ago (after I received a credit card bill for over $250.00!).

I had to leave a business dinner and I left my credit card number with the manager to charge the entire dinner on my credit card. I assumed for the four of us it would be about $100.00 at the MOST. I totally forgot about the small dinner until my credit card bill arrived and I saw the $250.00 charge for dinner! This was CRAZY! I didn’t even order a glass of water before I left, $250.00 for 3 people!

Life is a learning process.

I NOW openly state whether it is a business or private event, “Everyone has $10.00 or $20.00 for lunch or dinner, IF you all would like to order something over that amount, please ask for a separate tab. Also for all alcoholic beverages, etc., please use your personal credit card/cash and ask for a separate tab/receipt”.

I have NOT have a problem since 1990, when I started doing this. Also I am very verbal to avoid confusion; there is always that one person who “claims” they “forgot” to get a separate tab/receipt. How do I handle this? I tell the waitress/waiter when they first arrive at the table, “everyone has $10/$20 limit, if their order is more than that, could you please issue out separate tabs? Also everyone that orders alcoholic beverages will need a separate tab. Thank you.”

It works 99% of the time! Even the people who like to “forget” are kinda put on the spot.

Okay here is where everyone will start to throw stones, rocks, and eggs at me. I would NOT address anyone being over weight or under weight or eating alot, unless it was in private. And I would choose my words very very very carefully!

Once there was an associate that would eat tons of food at every meeting/lunch or event the company had. Later we found out that she was in a domestic violence situation and that fool she was living with spent all of the money on drugs and she and the kids had NO FOOD to eat at home. (Things are NOT always what they appear to be?)

Thank you.

Dr. StillStanding

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Rachael April 2, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Bringing up food to in general is an issue fraught with peril in the best of cases. If the person you are bringing it up with is overweight (or just thinks they are) and/or a member of a protected class, there can be claims of discrimination even if this was not the intent at all. Therefore, the person being overweight is relevant, because it shows that the situation has to be handled with extreme sensitivity and professionalism instead of just sensitivity and professionalism.

I think the idea of just having a budget for everyone and sticking with it across the board is a good one. No one is singled out and it takes care of the issue neatly.

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Shirl, Department Coor, Sutter Health April 2, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Number 1: Do not enter into the “weight game.” It is not about her weight, but about just over ordering the food. If she is ordering for the whole group, she should be asked to confer with the caterers on the amount suggested for the group count and let her know that there is a concern about too much food being left over and that you are trying to keep the cost down so this little thank you/appreciation can continue. I’m sure she will understand and not feel that you are focusing on “her.”

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Kathryn Cooper April 2, 2010 at 2:38 pm

The woman’s weight is not an issue unless you’re squeezing in next to her in Coach. I print out a standard order form – a table – with columns assigned to the department members’ names, main menu item, choices for what comes with the main item, sides, drinks, etc. If there is a dollar limit, it’s noted prominently at the top of the form. I circulate it amongst the team members with a copy of the vendor’s current menu. They make their choices, and I fax the form to the vendor, then call to arrange for pick-up or delivery time. If the woman in question were listed last, she would have the opportunity to see what other, more modest choices had been made by her co-workers, and might make choices more consistent with the group. If there were a dollar limit, she couldn’t miss it, and would have to order accordingly.

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Shirl, Department Coor, Sutter Health April 2, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Now this sounds like a great solution — I will introduce this one to my group — although we don’t have this particular problem. Also, if it is catering — most catering establishments have a “minimum” so a lot of the time we have left overs that we leave out for “all” to have seconds, etc.

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K.Lee April 2, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Wow – what a “hot topic”! Here’s what we do in our office – as we have a lot of guys that are ‘heavy’ eaters (overweight or not)… We’ve created “order vouchers” that are worth $10 to the resturaunt of the day. The employee writes their name on this ‘voucher’ along with what they would like to order & the price. If the cost is more than the $10 voucher, the employee kicks in from their own pocket to cover the difference. It actually works out really well for everyone.

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Tanya March 29, 2010 at 12:49 pm

If you have an opportunity to circulate an office staff memo that would include that the office will gladly pay for lunch, however needs to limit the cost per person to a certain dollar amount. This would creatively address the situation without offending anyone as well as keep a financial cap on the luncheons. I would strongly discourage addressing her weight as this could turn into a legal matter that you really don’t want.
Hope that helps.

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Fellow Admin Asst March 29, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Leave her weight out of this – this is discrimination and harrassment and can backfire badly. Send out a memo letting everyone know that you are now needing to watch the budget and in order to maintain the privilege of providing lunch everyone will need to remain under a certain dollar amount. It should certainly be understood with the economy we’re living in today. I use a caterer for our events and they always try to get you to over order. This economy gives a lot more bargaining power on your end because who ever you order from will want to keep your business.

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Esther March 29, 2010 at 11:43 am

Why not do as others have suggested. Either order buffet style or select a luncheon with 2 options. Example: You are placing orders for sandwiches. They may select Chicken or beef. Macaroni salad or potato and the lunch also comes with an apple and a soft drink. The employees will know what there options are and could make personal arrangements to bring something else if they are not satisfied. That way you are not pointing to one person. The menu is adequate and you stay within budget.

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Deb March 29, 2010 at 11:29 am

This is in response to Lynette’s comment.. What? I don’t think this has anything to do with ordering a larger lunch than anyone else. I think you misunderstood the question. I think Elizabeth just needed some feedback (and boy is there a lot of consistency voiced) on setting a budget for each employee and sticking to it!

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Lynette March 29, 2010 at 11:00 am

I don’t believe it is the employers duty to say something to the employee, after all they did hire her knowing she is overweight. The company might consider offering, as part of the benefit package, a life coach, or even an incentive program program for getting into healthly programs, like weight loss or excersise memberships. The important thing is not to focus on her and offer incentives for all. Group participation can be very powerful and maybe she has a friend there that would join her.

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Donna March 29, 2010 at 10:19 am

I really agree with Lynne’s response. Also, I don’t see how a few extra dollars for a person’s lunch should be an issue. Of course by capping the lunch amount reimbursed, you would resolve this issue.

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Cheryl March 27, 2010 at 2:58 pm

I think the best way to handle this situation is to create a “lunch budget” whether lunch is ordered catering-style or individually. Most employees understand, without question, that the company needs to be financially responsible without cutting the benefit out all together. If this indiviual chooses to order “too much”, they would be financially responsible for the balance. The need to discuss eating habits with this person would then be eliminated saving other employees and the company from a possible lawsuit where privacy and health related issues are violated unknowingly.

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LeAnn March 26, 2010 at 5:00 pm

There is a clear solution here, setting a budget for the Saturday lunches is the way to go. Once a budget is set then it will not matter if you are ordering buffet style or individual lunches. All the employees should be made aware of the budget and if they choose to spend more on their own lunch they should be expected tp pay the difference. Cost control is something all businesses evaluate from time to time.

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Mark March 26, 2010 at 4:31 pm

I would avoid the weight issue and directly deal with the cost issue, such as having a mandatory cost-per-meal allowance. With so many businesses controlling costs these days, I would think everyone would understand the need for this.

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CC from TN March 26, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Parameters need to be announced before orders are placed. Perhaps something needs to be iterated to staff that there is a need to cut down on the monies spent on ordering food but that the company still wants to provide such. It should be announced to everyone, as it is harmful to single out individuals.

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overweight myself March 26, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Wow! This is incredibly petty and discriminatory. Why in the world would you associate her being “a bit overweight” (by your standards – but who knows) the reason for too much food left over? If you require as much as breakfast, lunch and snacks to be ordered for a full day of work EVERY Saturday, even the best of caterers would end up with leftover food – skinny or not so skinny. If she must be responsible for the food ordering, then kindly give her a budget and some coaching. If you truly want her to be successful in her role, then don’t let this go on with people assuming the leftovers are due to her weight. That is so unkind and unfair.

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DeeCee March 26, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Put a limit on the amount the office will pay, or let people order from a limited menu (lunch menu) that has a price cap. Do not make this an issue about her weight.

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Anon2 March 26, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Set policy on how much can be spent per each meal and then if it is over the person who ordered over the amount would have to be responsible for the amount over. I would NOT single out an individual otherwise you would be setting yourself up for a lawsuit. However, there is nothing wrong in setting policy on amounts to spend. In our agency its $9.00 for breakfast, $12.00 for lunch and $15.00 for dinner. this does include tax but not tip. Also, we have meetings all the time and we just pre-rder box lunches and what is there is there so that may be another option. Hope this helps.

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Donna March 26, 2010 at 3:57 pm

It doesn’t matter if she is fat, thin, purple or plaid. You need to speak with her personally about the matter.

If she is in charge of ordering for the whole office, then you are not out of line talking to her about reducing the amount ordered because of cost concerns.

If the office takes individual orders for everyone and you feel she orders too much, you need to look at it from a cost comparison perspective. Free lunches are a benefit that are being extended to all at your office. If the cost of her lunch is significantly more than everyone elses, you need to speak to her privately. All inclusive benefits such as that need to be even for everyone.

Issuing a policy memo to everyone may take *you* out of the hot seat, but in reality you are just singling her out in a public manner. (It is not hard to see why certain rules in certain places were written.) Speaking with her privately might be uncomfortable for both you and she, but a memo could be even more devastating to her.

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Kim March 26, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Judging what is or is not too much for someone to order/eat can be a very sensitive subject. Why not set a limit on the amount a meal can be paid/reimbursed? Then everyone is within the same guidelines and no one feels singled out.

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Cindi March 26, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Place an office-wide per-person maxiumum dollar amount on lunch. That way, the office can actually budget for those Saturday lunches and no one is singled out for humiliation.

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Linda March 26, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Personally, I’d like to know why everyone is watching what she is ordering? Is it really anyone’s business? I’m not so sure everyone is concerned about cost or well being for the employees, it sounds more like they are being judgmental. Perhaps the easiest thing would be for the company to preorder the food and have it delivered at lunch time. I do not think it would be appropriate for anyone to comment on her food intake. That would cause embarrasment for her as well as her feeling like everyone is watching her. Either order food ahead of time OR stop providing the food for free.

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Debbie March 26, 2010 at 3:40 pm

I agree with Lynne that it would be a very embarrassing issue to bring forward to this particular employee. However, I do believe that everyone should have the same budget to spend on lunch. Putting aside that this employee is overweight, I feel it is inappropriate for this employee to be allowed to spend that much more money on lunch than the others. I would tactfully announce to these Saturday employees that the company will pay a certain dollar amount for lunch. If you want anything else, you will be asked to pay for it. My company does not pay for my lunches nor do I expect them to. This is a perk as Lynne mentions which is nice but it certainly should not be taken for granted or abused.

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Deniese March 26, 2010 at 3:38 pm

The issue is not her weight. If she was thin, would you have the same issue with talking to her? Perhaps she does not know how to plan food for a crowd or can’t judge how much is appropriate. Approach it from the standpoint of budget and make sure she understands how to order quantities of food.

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Maisy March 26, 2010 at 3:37 pm

These lunches sound like a really nice benefit for the staff. However, if the partners decide they’re spending too much $, they may cut the program out all together. It sounds as if they’re already concerned.
You may wish to ask the partners to specify a lunch budget per person, and then formally relay that information to the staff. The WHOLE staff.
That way, there’s a clear line drawn, money isn’t overspent, and no one person is put in the spotlight.

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Liza March 26, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Does she order for the whole office-catering style, or individual meals? If it’s catering style and it isn’t her requirement to order, maybe there could a rotation of people who do it. Also, if its catering, simply telling her that having excessive leftovers in unecessary should suffice without having to mention her weight-all she needs to do is ask the person who takes the order if they think this will be too much for however many people its serving.

Otherwise, if its individual, have them order from a specific list and only pay for 1 meal. Or what Lynne recommended.

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Lynne March 26, 2010 at 2:42 pm

I think she would be quite embarrassed if you said something. Plus, I don’t know that the amount of food a person orders always coincides with weight. I have a coworker who is naturally slender and she can eat with the best of them. Could you create a policy that the company will pay for lunch up to a certain dollar amount? You could state that you still want to provide this perk to thank staff for all their hard work, but to be fiscally responsible you will be capping the amount that can be spent? Another thought – is it possible that she is having a hard time financially and she uses this opportunity to get a decent meal?

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