It’s Time To Offer Breakroom Design Services

June 17, 2015
A Q&A on why (and how) one of the most successful vending companies offers breakroom design as part of its portfolio.

The workplace breakroom is an important aspect of the industry today. Employees use breakrooms to spark conversation, mentally step away from the office, reenergize and refresh. For employers focusing on employee health and wellness, a customized food and beverage program, as well as a customized food and beverage breakroom, is a highlight and key motivator. Offering new vending equipment or a micro market at the location, however, might not be enough. In order to give employees a workday highlight, perhaps it’s time to examine the opportunities in offering breakroom design.

For more than 25 years, Pepi Companies has offered a design service as part of its portfolio. Breakroom design sets the company apart by providing a solution to its customers that makes the breakroom become an employee destination. Today the company designs approximately ten breakrooms per year. Vic Pemberton, Pepi Companies’ CEO, and Jenny Hendrix, chief sales and marketing director, discuss how they got into breakroom design — and why it is an important business offering.

Q1: How did you get started?

Vic: We began doing breakroom designs back in 1987. At that time, many machines were placed outside, in rough environments. A temperature-controlled area is an integral part of creating a great destination, so we would build breakrooms to put the machines in a better environment.

We were put on the map in 1992 when a large poultry processing plant came to us. We were doing their vending and catering in an old building and they were creating a new, state-of-the-art processing plant and asked us to create the design work for the breakroom and lay it all out and put it together, so that’s what helped us see the value of this service.

Q2: Is a background in design necessary?

Vic: No. When people ask me to do something I say “yes” and then go figure out how to do it! We know what our customers want in terms of food, seating, looks and lights because we spend every day in breakrooms. We focus on each individual location because each one is different. We have also been blessed to have Jenny working with us. She has a passion and talent for breakroom design. And even though we don’t have degrees in design, we have done more than one hundred breakroom re-dos. We also want to help other operators make breakroom design part of their portfolio, which is why we created a service called Breakrooms by Design as part of our WITY Solutions program.

Q3: What is your first step in creating a breakroom?

Jenny: In terms of getting ideas for designs, we usually have a focus group or initial conversation to determine the client’s vision and needs. They tell me the types of images they’d like me to incorporate or the type of lighting they’re looking for. We take the space and we imagine what it could be. We make it a retreat, a place employees can go and refresh and be out of their normal work environment. It’s important to make the breakroom a destination.

Q4: Do you design the entire breakroom space?

Jenny: It varies from location to location. It ranges from just designing the seating concept or the enclosures for the market or the machines to full-scale re-dos that require a redesign of the floors, the walls and the lighting. Most clients do full-scale re-dos.

We had one location call us two years after we redesigned their breakroom, wanting us to redesign their bathrooms, too.

Vic: In some locations — especially when buildings are being designed from scratch — we give the layouts, the concepts and the flows of the breakroom to the architecture firm to put in their drawings.

Q5: Who pays for this work?

Jenny: It varies and we work with clients to determine a solution for how to pay for the redesign. If it provides value, there is a way to pay for it. We bundle services and basically become a general contractor.

Q6: Why do you continue to offer design services?

Vic: Businesses continue to ask for this service, so we continue to provide it.

Jenny: And there is a lot of satisfaction in hearing people come back and say that their employee morale is so much stronger because we’ve created a highlight for them.

Vic: That’s right. We had a client come to us, they were going through significant changes in their company, and they mentioned that the breakroom was one thing that was holding the employee morale together. When people see what we’ve done with breakrooms, they say, “I want that.”

The benefits

Breakroom design has been an important aspect of account retention for Pepi Companies. It has also made the company more valuable to its locations. Pemberton warns, however, that it’s not enough just to offer upgraded equipment; the entire space must be addressed. “Even if you install new vending machines or new micro markets in an old breakroom, it’s still an old breakroom; it’s not a destination and people still aren’t going to go,” said Pemberton. “Breakroom redesign is a profitable and viable option for vending operators.”

For questions or to learn more about WITY Solutions and Breakrooms by Design, contact Vic Pemberton at [email protected] or 334-596-6321. You can also visit