Is This Heaven? No, it’s the Google Cafeteria.


Stairway to Google?

I recently attended a meeting at Google’s office located in Cambridge, MA.  After spending a day there, I learned that Google treats their employees very well.  Or, I should say they feed their employees very well.

When we got to the Google office our Account Manager took us to the kitchen where they have a Starbucks Barista-grade espresso machine, homemade granola bars and a ton of other snacks.  Most of the snacks are healthy-ish. The non-healthy snacks are placed in non-transparent containers so you can’t see what’s inside.  I guess that’s supposed to discourage you from eating the junk food.  But, of course it didn’t keep me away from my Peanut M&Ms.

Now I understand why Google new hires gain the “Google 15”.

Google snack heaven

Google snack heaven

Later we ate lunch in the Google cafeteria.  When I walked in, I was shocked by the number of people in there.  I’ve worked in offices with cafeterias before.  They’re usually half full.  But, the Google cafeteria was packed.  We actually had to wait a few minutes to get a table.

And everyone seemed to be playing cards.  At first, I thought this was some kind of lunchtime poker tournament.  Count me in, I thought.  But, as I looked closer at the cards, I realized this was a different kind of card game.  All the cards were decorated with trolls, elves, dragons, etc.  The game is called Magic The Gathering.  I think it’s like Dungeons and Dragons with playing cards.  It was a nice remember that most Google employees are engineers.  So, there’s still a lot of geek that goes along with Google-chic.

When we made it over to the food, I was shocked at the diversity of options.  Seafood, salad, pasta, stir fry, coq a vin.  There was also a make-you-own omelet station.  I mean, who doesn’t love breakfast for lunch?

They also had a wood fire grill where they were making scallops and oysters.  And the day I was there, they brought in a James Beard award-winning chef to make his special seafood soup.  Oh, and don’t forget the refrigerators packed with premium drinks like VitaCoco and Peligrino.

Google Gourmet

Google Gourmet

After loading up my tray with way too much food, I asked my Google Account rep, “where do I pay”.

You know that scene in the movies where a guy says something awkward in a crowded room and all the sudden the music comes to a screeching stop and everyone is looking at him?  I was that guy in the Google cafeteria.  People standing nearby heard me and laughed.  “Pay for a meal?  Silly non-Googler.”  It was truly a “Can’t Hardly Wait” moment (see the clip below to understand that reference).

So, I guess I’m the only guy on Earth who didn’t know that Google serves free lunches to all employees – breakfast, lunch and dinner.  That’s an amazing employee perk.  From a monetary point of view, that’s like adding $2500 to your salary every year because you don’t have to pay for meals.

The whole experience made me think of the restaurant scene from the movie Defending Your Life with Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep.  They’ve both died and they are in the waiting area before you go to heaven.  All the food there is super-gourmet and you can eat whatever you want, as much as you want, you don’t pay and you never gain weight.  Sounds a lot like Google.  Except for the “never gain weight” part.  See the clip below.

I don’t have any firm evidence that Google’s free meals have any impact on their business results.  But, I can say that it is an amazing perk that will keep employees engaged and loyal for the long term.  As my twenty-something Google account rep told me “After working at Google, I don’t think I could ever work at another company.”

And, there’s definitely something to be said for that.

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