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Restaurants Support Philosophical Movement to Get Workers Out of the Office at Lunchtime

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A year-old project to encourage workers to "commit to a lunch hour of renewal" has found a new fan base in restaurant owners, who are enthusiastically backing The Energy Project's call for people to leave their offices at lunchtime.

Tony Schwartz, founder of The Energy Project and author of The Way We're Working Isn't Working, introduced the "Take Back Your Lunch" initiative last summer. Schwartz received a torrent of publicity for his suggestion that workers reclaim their Wednesday lunch hours as an opportunity to recharge.

"The demand in people's lives overwhelms their capacity. We need to stop operating as if we were computers," Schwartz told ABC News, which dutifully reported workers who don't break for lunch are more prone to moodiness, weight gain and unproductive work habits.

With the average American worker gobbling up lunch in less than 20 minutes, media outlets everywhere picked up Schwartz's proposal as "news you can use." But the excitement over rational lunching had largely dissipated until restaurants got hold of it.

"Every Wednesday you need to Take Back Your Lunch," Arcodoro & Pomodoro this week counseled via Facebook. "This organization says we need to get back OUT THERE to be productive. Check it out and come visit Arcodoro!"

Applebee's is perhaps the biggest chain to jump on the lunch break bandwagon. According to The Energy Project's web marketing director Emily Pines, the restaurant's building a campaign around the "Take Back Your Lunch" concept.

Pines says her organization isn't collaborating with Applebee's and hasn't received any compensation in connection with its incipient "Loving Your Lunch" promotion. She says creating business for restaurants wasn't part of the plan when "Take Back Your Lunch" was launched.

"It's great to be helping local businesses, but it's really about getting workers away from their desks," Pines says. "Our bodies want and need a break."

If restaurants are successful in creating momentum for the lunching-out movement, servers -- the vast majority of whom don't receive meal breaks -- will have still busier lunch hours. Pines hopes they don't get caught up in the hamster wheel cycle her organization's trying to combat.

"We advocate taking advantage of the smallest break you can," she says. "We advocate sitting down and taking a deep breath."

Follow City of Ate on Twitter: @cityofate.

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