Vineyard Vines, Nike, Hello Fresh and more have created delicious spaces
And you thought your office’s communal Keurig was a hot sell.
Companies are creating over-the-top commercial kitchens fully stocked with employee perks like free food, beer, cooking demos, shuffle boards and pool tables to feed the need for better office morale.
“For many companies, only having a drab break room is no longer an option,” Stephen Searer, founder of Office Snapshots, an architecture publication that’s featured corporate kitchen remodels from big businesses like Uber, Microsoft and We Work, tells Moneyish.
“Instead they are designing spaces which we describe as being more like a work lounge where staff can be comfortable as well as have the ability to work,” he adds.
The ultimate corporate lounge is at Vineyard Vines, the nautical clothing company based out of Stamford, Connecticut, which recently underwent a massive renovation. The interactive kitchen space, nicknamed “The Wharf,” is adorned with surf boards hanging loose along with wooden whales, an ode to Martha’s Vineyard where the company was founded, and giant ores affixed with colorful ties hanging from the ceiling. And decor, like a photo of a man windsurfing with the caption “Never rule out a sick day,” makes you forget it’s just another day at the office.
If the laid back eating ambiance isn’t appetizing enough, there’s free Starbucks, a cereal bar and an iced coffee kegerator employees frequently sip on, while lounging in the outdoor adirondack chairs and communal picnic tables.
“We moved buildings, so the kitchen at our old office was tiny, there were only tables for probably 20% of our team, so most people just ate at their desks, ” Andie Jodko, a manager at Vineyard Vines corporate tells Moneyish.
The major renovation is inspired by the company’s relaxed, plaid-filled clothing brand that trickles down to the easy-going work culture, so taking a lunch break is pretty much required.
“They want everyone to socialize in the cafeteria. Sitting at our desks during lunch is discouraged,” says Jodko.
In many industries there’s no such thing as the power lunch since only one in five office workers actually leave their desk to eat. But it turns out there are major benefits to taking a lunch break — spending just 20 minutes to nosh and catch up with co-workers is a proven way to sustain concentration and energy levels throughout the day. And having a pretty place to do it is even more of an incentive to get out of that uncomfortable desk chair.
When Nike redid its corporate headquarters last year, they fashioned the kitchen with a tile mosaic of a basketball player by Harlem-based artist Micah NYC for employees to feast their eyes on while waiting for a morning espresso and snack from its Manhattan-style food truck. And Google, perhaps the pioneer of in-house gourmet eats, is known for having the best food in Silicon Valley served inside its “cafe.” It even receives requests to open to the public. And move over Red Bull, Airbnb prepares in-house energy drinks (hibiscus, green tea and yerba matte); and photo sharing tech company DropBox has an actual food hall with Mediterranean, Indian and Asian-inspired bites served at all times.
And it turns out, the kitchen makeovers are helping employees save money. Luke Hartman, a strategist at PHD Media who lives in Harlem, says he saves $75 a week on lunch and instead takes advantage of his fancy new kitchen at his advertising agencies’ Midtown office.
The kitchen at his 42nd Street office is stocked with a seltzer machine, a full espresso bar and the occasional lunch spread of free sandwiches and salads. Fridays mean free bagels.
“They spared no expense,” says Hartman. “It’s very HGTV,” he adds, of the open kitchen concept with dark wood floors and bright white cabinetry. “It definitely encourages you to not eat out as much. Depending on the week, I only buy lunch may be two days,” he says.
You certainly don’t need to bring lunch at Hello Fresh, the subscription food delivery service that sends ingredients and recipes to foodie customers. Before moving into their Flatiron office recently, Shara Seigel, senior manager at HelloFresh, could hardly taste her company’s own recipes in a cramped New Jersey office.
But the new office features three glorious new kitchens. One is for actual chefs to test recipes, while the others have communal tables and beverages on tap for corporate employees to savor. “Our kitchen really is the heartbeat of our company,” says Seigel, who says the company relocated after outgrowing its old office last year.
“While the chefs are testing the recipes, they’ll send out an email asking if we want to taste test. Everyone will go upstairs. It almost looks like you’re at a cocktail party with bite-sized samples of food,” says Seigel.
On some days the sweet aroma of cherry balsamic glaze pork chops or panko crusted chicken will get her out of her desk and into the taste kitchen to try a new recipe. Or on more casual days, there’s yogurt, kombucha, and wasabi chips or Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups.
She also saves a lot on avocado toast — the pricey green fruit is typically found inside one of the kitchens and there’s plenty of bread lying around, so employees make their own when it’s not too busy. And Seigel can pretty much guarantee she won’t miss a meal on the job. “I definitely have a jar of cookie butter in my drawer.”
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