SODO Kitchen Supports Sustainability Mission

Social responsibility and high-end fare meet at Starbucks café.

By Lindsey Ramsey, Contributing Editor

SEATTLE—Starbucks doesn’t just want to wake up the world with caffeine. The company also has made a commitment to promote its socially responsible practices, a commitment that Bon Appétit, foodservice provider at Starbucks’ Seattle headquarters, shares. These same ideas informed the design and menu at SODO Kitchen, Starbucks’ new corporate café. Rick Stromire, general manager for Bon Appétit at the facility, says Starbucks was a new account for the company when SODO Kitchen was conceived.

“We’re really a great fit for Starbucks because both companies have a similar vision about what we are going to do with our planet and how we source the food. Then we just try to do our best to be sustainable and local whenever possible, and I think Starbucks has that same mentality.”

The café is open for breakfast and lunch and serves about 115 to 150 for breakfast and 750 to 900 people during lunch. The team uses Starbucks’ internal portal, as well as Facebook and Twitter, to promote the café to both employees and the general public.

Layout: When entering the café the first station guests see is the rotisserie, which is also considered the cafe’s comfort station.

“[The station has] this big, beautiful rotisserie with whole chickens and sometimes whole fish and pork loin,” Stromire says. “We sell quarter chickens, mac and cheese and roasted or steamed vegetables. Plus, there is always a vegetarian option at that station. We’ll also do carved meat sandwiches.”

Next to the rotisserie there is a soup station, which offers a weekly and daily soup option. Then there is the grill, where Stromire says the team likes to pair grain salads with grill options such as fresh, local fish.

“We usually have three wonderful fresh fish options, which all come with a really nice healthy salad with different flavor profiles,” Stromire says. “There is usually a nice garnish on top. Depending on the theme of the week, it could be an Asian garnish, etc.”

The station also shakes things up with its burger program, choosing not to serve a traditional “have it your way” burger on a daily basis, but to serve themed burgers instead.

“We always have a mini, which is our version of a slider,” Stromire says. “It could be a vegetarian mini, a lamb mini, anything. It’s a good opportunity to try something for cheap. We also have a burger that rotates different flavors. We kind of tell you what the theme of the burger is and try and educate you that way. That said, we do offer a traditional burger in the rotation.”

At Ovens, a wood stone pizza oven bakes three varieties of pizza daily, as well as two specialty pizzas and a casserole-type dish.

One could call the 25-foot salad bar the operation’s centerpiece since it is where the company’s commitment to sustainability is most easily recognized. Stromire says almost everything on the salad bar is sourced locally. All salad dressings are made in house.

The global station features a tandoor oven where Indian dishes such as tandoori chicken rotate weekly. The station also offers daals or rice. Next to the global station is a deli where customers can make their own sandwiches. All meat, with the exception of ham, is roasted in house.

Stromire says one of his biggest challenges is that the café doesn’t offer items considered “the norm.”

“We take time to educate the customers that there are other things out there beyond the traditional items, but to counter that we offer a traditional burger every three weeks.”

Design: The idea behind the design of the café, says Stromire, was to create a space that puts the traditional corporate café to shame.

“The café is really sexy,” Stromire says. “It has different heights of seating. We have leather, we have marble—just very high-end finishes. It’s not a flat space. The lighting is very unique. We used a lot of wood grains to create a kind of rustic feel. The design of the servery is a similar kind of thing. It has subway tiles in the back and we have stainless steel hoods on the equipment and white marble counters. It’s very sleek.”