In the late morning, the co-worker or co-workers who are cooking lunch today go around and get a headcount, so they know how much food to buy.
That person or team then goes and buys an appropriate amount of groceries for lunch that day.
They come back and begin cooking in the company lunchroom, which has full kitchen facilities.
When lunch is ready, they go around and tell everyone who's said they're in that it's time to eat.
Everyone eats together at a long table. There's generally not much shop talk; people are happy to talk about something other than work. (Although my German isn't up to conversation I can tell that much.)
There's usually enough for people to go back for seconds; usually not enough for a full second portion, but enough so you're pleasantly full.
People are pretty business-like about not hanging about for very long after everyone's finished eating. When that happens, everyone gets up at once.
We all clear our own dishes and load them into the dishwasher. The people who cooked run the dishwasher and wipe down the tables.
There's a sign-up sheet where people mark down how many meals we've had; the set rate is €2 per lunch. Food tends to be fairly straightforward and filling; these are on average graduate school-aged guys, so the food is pretty much what you'd expect. Last time it was sausages served with a sauerkraut/noodle mix, which included some bacon to give the sauerkraut some saltiness. One of the principals made that. Today it was a spinach/feta/tuna mix over rotini. A couple of the guys in development made it, and it was really good.
Because I'm not on the sign-up sheet, someone has to come find me in the afternoon to collect my money, but I think for people who are here permanently they run a tab and you settle up at the end of the month or something.
The full staff here isn't more than 15 people, and not all of those choose to eat with us. Today, we had 7; last Thursday we had 12. There's no division between management and staff; we all sit at the same table and we all rotate through cooking duties. I haven't rotated in yet, and I'm told not to worry; I'll get paired with someone who knows what's generally popular and within the budget. Management doesn't always eat in because they're often out on client meetings and such, but when they do they're just like any other employee with regard to cooking and cleaning, and they sit at whatever seats are available at the table.
I think this communal lunch is a great idea for any of a number of reasons, and its existence and operation says a lot about company culture. It's also great to be able to look forward to a hot meal at midday. I think I'll ask my host how it all got started and whether this is a common thing in small companies here.