Workers at major Silicon Valley companies like Facebook and Google may enjoy some pretty amazing meals in their corporate cafeterias, but that wasn’t always the case.
In the late 1980s, Fedele Bauccio was in the process of building Bon Appetit Management Company, a Palo Alto-based restaurant company that he hoped would change the way businesses fed their workers.
“My office was in the area where all of the venture capitalists were at the time, starting new companies,” Bauccio told Business Insider.
He soon became acquainted with Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who wanted to build a paninoteca, or traditional Italian sandwich shop, at his young company’s new headquarters in Redwood Shores.
“Being Italian, I said, ‘I could do that,'” Bauccio said. “But we knew a small sandwich shop wasn’t going to last long.”
As Oracle continued to grow, Bon Appetit created a series of unique concept cafes for the campus. There’s now a Japanese noodle bar, an Indian curry house, and a Mediterranean marketplace, among other delectable options located in different buildings beside a lake.
It wasn’t long before other tech firms in Silicon Valley caught on to the idea.
“Other companies saw what we did and said, ‘We want to do that too.’ Other companies were doing these large cafeterias (and we do have some large facilities, too) but there was obviously a benefit in doing these smaller cafes where you have a personal connection to the food and have different seating options,” Bauccio said. “Silicon Valley took off like crazy, and now we have a whole new crop of companies — Google, LinkedIn, Amazon — that weren’t even in business back then.”
As these companies have grown into massive global operations, Silicon Valley office culture has also changed significantly. Workers spending long hours at the office often look to their employers to provide healthy, authentic meal experiences at all times of the day.
“It challenged us to create what I call ‘casual collisions’ — that as people break bread together, they come up with new ideas and innovations,” Bauccio said. “The days of huge cafeterias are over.”
A commonly held belief in Silicon Valley is that the happier, healthier, and better-fed employees are, the more productive they will be. That’s where all of the perks come in.
And with initiatives that aim to bring nutritious and locally sourced ingredients into corporate cafeterias, Bon Appetit ensures that employees don’t have to leave the office to eat good food.
“I think food is a huge perk, and I think it’s expected now,” Bauccio said. “These people creating new products now — there’s no beginning or end of the day for them. They’re here all the time. We have to create experiences that start earlier and last longer, because it’s not just lunchtime anymore.”