Idea: Meal Messages - Come Join Me Signs on Lunch Tables

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This is an original idea (to the best of my knowledge)!
This page represents an idea by Alan Oursland.

Date of idea: ...........sep 9, 2012
Date added here: ....oct 2, 2012
Status: ..................Was posted onto internal Google page here (you can't see this unless you are a google employee)! Someone else had a similar idea. I actually thing it's pretty silly now.

Ideas I've publicly posted here I'd love to implement myself, but I know I (realistically) don't have enough time and/or resources. While most people keep their ideas secret, I'd prefer someone else implement and benefit from this idea rather than it fade in my head and never happen!

If you like this idea or know of a similar one please e-mail me at :-)

For more info and a list of my public ideas visit: Ideas.

Executive Summary

This idea is not really mine! It belongs to Alan Oursland who works at Google, and posted an little idea internally called '"Join Me" signs in cafe eating areas'. His description is in the next section, and my only contribution is to expand on it a little to display more than just a "join me" sign. Instead I thought you could have many messages / signs available by having something similar to a roll-a-dex - a triangular piece of plastic, but with transparent sleeves for small messages to be inserted. These sleeve should be connected to the apex, so people can flip over to read the card and, if they want, leave one of the "join me" signs showing. I imagine some of the cards white and containing humor and something interesting to read, like xkcd cartoons and company quotes... and then at the back a few colored cards, also with slightly humorous messages. Google is a very colorful place, and the google color codes could be:

  • green for "join me"
  • yellow for "try your luck"
  • red for "don't disturb / seats taken".

NOTE: This idea is currently marked as restricted, so most people won't be able to see it! I don't anticipate such an idea has any problem being public - but please don't share this text anyway.


Here's the original idea from Alan:

This is only my second week at Google so I don't know how often this would be needed...

If I go to a cafe by myself I usually end up eating by myself. I would like a way to indicate that other people are welcome to join me at my table. Similarly, it would make it easier to find a seat if other people who are eating by themselves had signs on their table indicating I am welcome to join them. I could go around and ask people who are sitting alone if I can join them, but being socially awkward, this practice feels... awkward.

Benefits are:

  1. Solo eaters will share tables and create more open tables for groups.
  2. I can meet more people across the company more easily.

I'm thinking it would be a cheap plastic triangle like restaurants use to indicate order numbers. They could be stored with the silverware and drinks and such.

I agree with Alan, that sometimes it's awkward to join a table - especially if you happen to have missed your group and are by yourself. I do, however, think that it might be awkward to take a "join me" sign and place it on your table. You may feel a little embarrassed / desperate for taking the card, and even worse if you get "rejected" and no one joins you. It almost feels a bit like online dating where you may feel a little bad for resorting to that message, and worse if you get rejected and no one joins you.

How it would work

With the flip card version, I think they should be placed on all the tables already. Since the frist half of the cards and funny / topical cartoons and quotes people are likely to spend time reading them, talking about them and groups are most likely just to leave it on white. Other's might decide to signal red, but people by themselves or wanting people to join them can more casually just flip the card over to a funny green "join me" message and push the card to the opposite side of the table to pretend it was just "on" that card already if they don't want to feel "desperate" for company. Furthermore, since the messages on the colored cards are funny, then can serve as that little ice-breaker - and even be useful for people who want to flag that they need help with some problem!


  • GREEN (come join me)
    • I need to solve a complex problem
    • Help me complain about first word problems
    • Ask me about _______
    • I'm a Noogler!
    • Ask me about my favorite band/google product/co-founder
    • There are some geeky words I need explained to me

  • YELLOW (try your luck)
    • Impress me with something cool
    • I just killed a build/server/data-center/person... so a little preoccupied
    • I'm fed up with hot chicks hitting on me
    • Today I feel like the dumbest person in google
    • Help me, I'm stuck in a colorful room printing obscure messages

  • RED (busy / full table)
    • I just don't like people
    • All these seats taken sorry
    • In a rush
    • I just broke something
    • I'm a lawyer, so you probably don't want to talk to me anyway
    • Don't ask


I haven't really thought of any good name yet. Alan suggested "join me" which I like, but if the flip cards are implemented it's more than just a "join me" sign - it can both signal availability and serve as some fun reading material over lunch. The best I can think of so far is "meal messages", but here's some other words I might be able to string together somehow:

  • Words:
    • lunch** ...|... meal ...|... snack ...|... feast ...|...
    • bite ...|... nibbles ...|...
    • crossing ...|... gathering ...|...
    • table ...|... cafe ...|...
    • sign ...|... signals ...|... reserve ...|... social ...|...
  • Possible names:
    • social signal
    • come join me
    • lunch crossing
    • learning at lunch
    • lunch signals
    • meal messages