It used to be during your orientation tour at a new job, the HR rep would point out useful spots like the bathrooms, vending machines and where to pick up your mail. And they’d also drop by the company kitchen, which probably featured hospital-style white walls and floors, blinking fluorescent lights that emitted an annoying buzzing noise and a too-small fridge covered in notes that berated “whoever stole my lunch” or passive aggressively reminded everyone to throw out their months-expired-and-now-fermented yogurt.
For some forward-thinking companies, the days of the bleak lunchrooms that drove employees to the nearest fast-food chain are a thing of the past. In an effort to entice and retain the top talent, companies are now investing more in their cafeterias, offering thoughtful design, comfortable seating, game tables and even gourmet food options.
Sayonara last night’s cold pizza. Hello fancier feasts.
Here are a few trend-setting cafeterias:
Homey and modern
This company hired a professional home stager to redesign their bland corporate lunchroom into a cozy but modern kitchen and dining room.
Gone are the bare walls and plastic chairs, replaced by graphic artwork and homey wooden dining room chairs and a couple of plush chairs, perfect for catching up with a co-worker over a cup of coffee.
In fact, this may give you kitchen envy. Those cherry cabinets with and sleek gold countertops may make your own knotty-pine cabinets and bile-colored formica counters look like sad holdovers from the 70s (which, sadly, they are). The kitchen’s designer writes that she used the company’s monogram on the island and its slogan on the wall in order to distinguish it as a corporate kitchen.
Other features include under-cabinet lighting, dining tables covered with table cloths and topped with easy-to-clean glass, and bowls filled with fresh fruit.
Photo courtesy of dreammom.blogspot.com
Right up our alley
When employees at the Seattle company RealNetworks need a break, they head to the cafeteria to play a little ping pong or foosball, or bowl a frame or two. That’s right, during renovations a few years ago, RealNetworks installed a bowling alley in their lunchroom, which is housed in a bright, airy atrium topped with a sunroof.
According to the Seattle Times, the company also offers employees gourmet dishes (think herb-crusted rib-eye roast with Madeira sauce, Thai chicken pizza with smoked mozzarella). Suddenly your Ham and Cheese Hot Pocket isn’t looking so hot anymore, right?
“When your talent is human capital and intellectual property, you want to treat those brains well,” company spokeswoman Moe Farley told the Times.
Makes you wish your company thought more of your brain, right?
Photo courtesy of BusinessWeek.com.
Why go out to eat at a fast food restaurant when you can munch on a Double Down or Chalupa without leaving the building?
At the company headquarters for Yum! Brands in Louisville, Kentucky, employees have the option at dining in a cafeteria designed to look like your average KFC, Taco Bell, A&W, Pizza Hut or Long John Silvers (all of which Yum! owns).
That is, of course, if your local Taco Bell has a lakeside view, a jukebox and flat screen TVs.
According to a story in U.S. News and World Report, the goal of the revamped cafeterias was to remind employees that they were in the restaurant business and give them a taste for what their customers might experience. Corporate employees can even learn how to make personal pan pizzas or tacos so that they can better understand the jobs of restaurant workers.
We just hope they provide plenty of napkins to employees so there’s not grease buildup on their keyboards.
Photo courtesy of Yum! Brands.
Gourmet eats for free
No roundup of cool company eateries would be complete without mentioning the Taj Mahal of company dining: Google.
Google doesn’t offer your standard salad bar and burger fare. The company employs professional chefs to create healthy, organic meals that are (wait for it) totally free to employees.
Imagine downing bowls full of watermelon almond gazpacho and plates of miso-marinated steak for the low, low price of free.
OK, so we know that Peanut M&Ms and yogurt raisins aren’t gourmet. But they are delicious and at Google, they’re also (wait for it) totally free.
We’ll give you a minute to recover from your jealous rage.
Photo courtesy of Ginside.com