In-office food spaces are the new workplace hub. At Evolution Hospitality, a 60-person hotel management company in San Clemente, employees sit around a big communal table during lunch. The company's kitchen – called the Break Room –opens onto a living room with pingpong table and three TVs tuned to The Surf Network. JEFF GRITCHEN, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
That old saying that the heart of a home is the kitchen now applies to the office, too.
Companies are making kitchens and in-office dining areas the hub of their workplaces to help employees meet and mingle, boost morale – and, oh yeah, feed people.
The trend is evident from photos and descriptions I received after putting out a call for Orange County companies to share what was unique or special about their kitchens and break rooms.
Some local businesses have created lavish dining-cum-lounge areas that wouldn’t look out of place in a design magazine. The physical spaces at others are more modest, but they’re used to feed staff on a regular basis, including catered daily breakfasts and lunches or weekly gourmet meals where the boss dons an apron and does all the cooking.
Kitchens have become so important that some companies are making them the first spaces visitors see. For the headquarters of one Los Angeles area entertainment company, office designers Stanley Felderman and Nancy Keatinge put a commercial-grade kitchen and employee cafeteria next to the lobby.
For employees, “it’s one of their favorite places to meet, ” Felderman says. “It’s been so successful, they have had to triple capacity” and are expanding seating to another floor.
Small businesses and companies with minimal budgets can create food spaces that encourage collaboration and make employees feel good about being at work. At minimum, carve out space for a microwave, toaster oven and refrigerator, Felderman and Keatinge say.
To make the space more flexible, use square or rectangular tables that can be pushed together for meetings. Throw in some high tables and stools to up the fun factor. Invest in a quality coffee machine that makes cappuccinos and other fancy drinks.
“I cannot tell you how often they get used and how much return they get from spending money on that, ” Felderman says. “The days of the Pyrex coffee pot are gone.”
Here’s a look inside some Orange County company kitchens:
Evolution Hospitality, San Clemente
The 60-person hotel management company spun off from Tarsadia Hotels in 2011 and moved into its current headquarters 10 minutes from downtown San Clemente a year later. The company’s kitchen – called the Break Room – opens onto a living room with pingpong table and three TVs tuned to The Surf Network.
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