Microsoft's cafes being designed for millennials and beyond

Published in FSD Update

Company sees high-quality food, reasonable prices and top-flight technology as ticket to business success.

I like having cash in my pocket. I’m old-fashioned that way. When my pockets are empty, I feel poor, even if my bank account says just the opposite.

But for a growing number of Americans, particularly in those generations known as millennials and Gen We, cold hard cash is almost anathema. Not the concept of it, you understand, just its physicality. It is with those people in mind that Microsoft is fashioning its new foodservice program.

Microsoft recently renovated three of the 28 cafes at its Redmond, Wash., campus. According to Paul Egger, senior services director for Microsoft Real Estate & Facilities, it is the start of a remodel cycle that will eventually see all of the older cafes getting fresh faces. Egger says the renovations are designed to stem the tide of declining participation in the older cafes.

In addition to changing the model for the cafes from commissary-driven to from-scratch preparation, each of the redone dining spaces are being outfitted to satisfy a cashless society. Each station with a “new” café now has its own touchscreen ordering kiosk. Not only can Microsoft employees order their food electronically, they also can—actually, are expected to—pay for it at the same time they order.

Those dedicated staffers who don’t have time to stand around waiting for their food to be prepared can order and pay for their food online from their desk, with the ability to designate a time at which they will be done to pick up their order.

Cashiers haven’t disappeared, Egger says. Instead, they have been transformed into “ambassadors” who walk the serveries and dining areas assisting customers who have questions or need help working the new technology.

It is possible, Egger notes, to use cash—sort of.

“We still have a cash register at our espresso bars,” he explains. “If you have cash, you can go to the espresso bar and they will load it onto a debit card for you.”

The goal at Microsoft is all about saving time because, as we all know, time is money. Cafes that offer customers high-quality food at reasonable prices keep Microsoft employees from leaving campus for lunch or dinner, and technology that moves them through the café faster gets them back to their desks that much more quickly saves the technology giant big bucks.

“For every 1% increase in participation, we save Microsoft $4 million a year in lost productivity,” Egger notes. Talk about a plan that pays for itself.

Keywords: 
design, new concepts

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

In a bid to beef up its presence in sports arenas and a variety of other large venues, Sodexo will acquire foodservice vendor Centerplate for $675 million.

Sodexo says the deal, which is expected to be finalized by the end of this year, will more than double its global footprint.

Centerplate, which serves as the foodservice operator for a number for stadiums, convention halls and other event spaces, brought in revenues of $998 million for the year ending June 2017, according to Sodexo. Centerplate was purchased five years ago by Olympus Partners, a private-equity company...

Menu Development
eggs

Loyola University Maryland took a new approach to all-day breakfast with an egg-focused concept.

Breakfast options were top of mind for students when asked what they would like to see on the menu at the university’s revamped Boulder Garden Cafe. Instead of creating an all-day breakfast station, however, the Baltimore-based dining team went beyond traditional options and created a concept that services all mealparts with eggs.

“It can be somewhat mundane,” says Executive Chef Don Crowther on why the team strayed away from the trendy all-day breakfast. At the eatery’s Sunny...

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Kansas has added a retail pass that allows students to purchase one to-go combo meal per day at cafes and markets on campus, the University Daily Kansan reports.

The pass is available on two different meal plans and is geared toward on-the-go students who don’t have the time to sit down and eat at a residence hall.

“It has increased the participation rate,” Jamie Reed, a service assistant for the school’s dining services, told the University Daily Kansan.

Over 1,800 students have used the pass since its debut at the beginning of the semester....

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Minnesota dining team has created a vegan student group in an effort to improve the school’s vegan offerings, Minnesota Daily reports.

The group was created by the school’s foodservice vendor, Aramark, and its campus sustainability coordinator, who is vegan, after receiving numerous complaints from students about the lack of vegan options on campus.

The group will this week host its first meeting, during which members will be able to share feedback and provide solutions to help enhance the school’s vegan offerings. Members will also keep a photo journal...

FSD Resources