Is A Café In The Workplace Ahead Of Its Time

Feb. 2, 2017

Recently I was asked if I thought the idea of premium coffee and free food in the break room would expand? It began with, and is still largely made up of, technology companies and those wanting to lure top employees. I thought of the mid-sized companies that I’ve worked at and at which many people I know work. They have value coffee and a “if the employees want it, then they can buy it for themselves" mentality. Perhaps these companies view fluorescent lighting and molded plastic chairs and tables as special perks to employees - a place to socialize, take a mental break and enjoy their food and beverages. It can be hard to see bottom-line return on investment for a fancier, more designed and stocked break area. It got me wondering if the new workplace café with specialty coffee brewers and bulk granola and nut dispensers we are hearing so much about is really a service in search of a market? In the majority of the country, are we trying to sell something that our customers don’t really want?  

Present and engaged employees 

While it may be hard for any one human resource executive to point to a return on investment number, there is supporting data available. In 2016, Gallup did a Meta-Analysis on how employee engagement compared to revenues. Gallup found that employee engagement consistently affects key performance outcomes, regardless of the organization's industry or company. Another similar study echoes these sentiments. 

Knoll recently reported on the evolving workplace saying that "As mobility lifts limitations on where work is done, organizations are challenged to create engaging environments that draw workers to the office...Elements of residential and hospitality design add welcomed comfort for employees who come together to collaborate, connect or need a place to relax, ideate, focus, socialize or otherwise engage."  

How do you engage employees? Company culture! Setting the ideal, experience-based work culture includes work-life balance, fair compensation, and most importantly for our industry, well-designed and stocked break/work areas that focus on hospitality and welcoming comforts and working spaces. 

The signs are everywhere 

So the take-away is that better spaces draw employees to the office, make them more engaged, inspire new ideas and increase the business' bottom line. This is undoubtedly what drives famous companies like Google and others to offer spaces outside of cubicles for work or a mental break. It’s what helps operations like Five Star Food Service, The Pepi Companies, Workwell and more stay at the cutting edge of office coffee service or micro market service, really setting what they "sell" apart both from big box retailers and other operators.   

There are also more micro market design companies that offer premium shelves, fixtures, lighting, and graphics than there were even 5 years ago. The growing competition in this segment speaks to a need for better designed and executed break room refreshment.    

So, do I think that more workplaces will opt to invigorate the company culture with a sophisticated breakroom? In a word – yes. Based on the research out there, I think that as business grows stronger and as start ups get bigger, you will see more of these new ideas and principles change the "average" workplace break area. Even before companies are ready to make the change, operators who offer the service have an advantage because they will be experienced and ready with a solution when change comes. 

About the Author

Emily Refermat | Editor

Emily has been living and breathing the vending industry since 2006 and became Editor in 2012. Usually Emily tries the new salted snack in the vending machine, unless she’s on deadline – then it’s a Snickers.

Feel free to reach Emily via email here or follow her on Twitter @VMW_Refermat.