Unlike most tech companies, Amazon doesn’t serve free lunches — employees must pay to eat at its cafeterias.
But a recent change inside Amazon’s cafeterias shows that the internet retail giant is starting to focus more on the culinary side of its culture: The company has finally introduced chopsticks across all its cafeterias.
Amazon’s decision to deploy chopsticks in every dining hall and kitchen was instigated by an anonymous employee at the company’s all-hands meeting in March, according to several employees we spoke to.
Amazon runs its all-hands meetings twice a year at Key Arena in downtown Seattle.
During the meeting, Bezos and his executive team go over some of the key milestones and give out rewards to its top performers.
They also do a live Q&A session. Employees can ask anything directly from the mic in the arena or through anonymously submitted questions. The types of questions vary: from inquiries about Bezos’ presidential ambition to why cats aren’t allowed at work when dogs are.
Bezos tries to answer all of them, but he knows he can’t. To avoid having to answer tough questions, he often likes to start by saying, “I’ll leave the difficult questions for my directs to answer.”
One of those difficult questions came during the March all-hands meeting, when one anonymous employee submitted a question asking about Amazon’s chopsticks policy:
“While we appreciate the Western utensils in the kitchen, are there plans to provide chopsticks? I think there is a sizable minority that would appreciate the chopsticks.”
Bezos seemed to get a kick out of it, but he didn’t take the question lightly, according to people who saw the meeting. Although he deferred the question to one of the execs on stage, chopsticks were put in all dining halls and kitchens at Amazon within a week (Amazon already had chopsticks available in some dining halls but not company-wide).
“I think it was sort of an aha-moment for the management team,” one person told us. “It was nice to see chopsticks put in place so quickly.”
According to Amazon’s latest diversity report, Asian employees comprise about 20% of all US managers and 10% of its total US workforce.
Amazon’s chopsticks deployment may be a move long overdue, given how even smaller companies like Yahoo and Dropbox have chopsticks available. But it could also be a sign of more things to come at Amazon, a company known for its notoriously frugal culture. With the company’s soaring stock price and profitability, Amazon’s management may be leaning towards upgrading its employee benefits and live up to what many other tech companies in Silicon Valley offer.
And we may already be seeing change start to take place. Amazon recently put ice machines in “several of its buildings” after another anonymous employee made the request at the March all-hands meeting.
Amazon declined to comment on this story.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.