Well back in the day when we used to own a deli/espresso/ice cream joint, we would allow the employees to have a free lunch every day when they were on duty. As for espresso drinks, as long as they brought their own cup that could have up to 4 drinks while at work. When they were off duty they would have to pay 1/2 price on everything. In addition they were required to write down both what they ate & what they drank. I would rather do it that way instead of having them steal from me. Besides we kept pretty good track of our goods and alloted a certain amount for waste.
In the past I have given employees one free shift espresso drink, all the brewed coffee they wanted and 50% off food and other items, all the time. This way you are encouraging them to try different drinks, as well as covering your costs on food. I would also give them ONE shidt drink to give away ... to a friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, mom, etc.
The most important thing is to be respectful and upfront with them as far as tracking the beverages and food they consume or give away. It can be free, but make sure that they write it down.
I accidentally found this topic right about the same time I was going to post a very similar question. No need to bog down the forum with a bunch of repeats, so I'll tack on my question here -
Working in coffee shops, I always just throw a couple dollars in the drawer on days when I eat a cookie or bagel, or have more than one or two lattes. As a near-future-shop owner, I'm wondering if that's enough. And how can you expect your employees to be honest about what they eat or drink when you're not there to watch them?