Eric Spiegel in an article on Datamation.com:
Now it was Frank’s turn to roll his eyes. “Whatever, Shaun. Sipping soda helps keep me in rhythm while I code. It’s hard to explain–it’s like a part of my creative process. Security guards and nurses don’t need to be concerned about their creative juices.” I interjected, “I don’t know about that, Frank, but I will tell you that this new policy likely is just the beginning of changes we won’t like. It’s a sign that things are changing–and not for the better. This isn’t a startup anymore. I’m sure the latest investors are trying to squeeze out as much profit as possible so we can go public or sell the company. These changes are clear signs that the culture of the company is changing right before our eyes. “
In his post, Spiegel covers his experience at a company that had some fairly standard snacks & beverages perks at the beginning but over time cut the perks and related 'non-essentials' such as training and conferences. Predictably, reduced pay raises and layoffs followed.
Perks such as snacks & beverages are not necessarily essential to a nice work environment, but they can act as a weak indicator of a company's health and/or management attention to making developers comfortable. The addition of new perks signals that management is maintaining a keen interest in creating a comfortable work environment and that the business is healthy enough to financial support such a move. In contrast, the removal of existing perks signals that management no longer cares about its employees or that the business can no longer financial support the perks.
Remember, folks, perks don't have to actually cost the company any money. While snacks & beverages are relatively cheap compared to the return on investment in terms of developer goodwill, they do in fact cost the business money. What doesn't cost much (if anything) for a business is letting developers work from home. People appreciate the flexibility that working from home offers, and developers (as part of the creative class) often need 'heads-down' time that is relatively free from distractions so that they can be productive. (Of course, make sure that you don't botch the work from home program.)
Perks are important for a business to maintain top talent. Making your company attractive to developers is almost as important as making your company attractive to your customers. After all, without talented developers, how will your company deliver on its promises to your customers?