New Microsoft Cafés Go Ultra High-tech

Published in FSD Update

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

The goal at Microsoft is to save time because, as we all know, time is money. It is the company’s contention that cafés 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.

In addition to changing the model for the cafés from commissary driven to from-scratch preparation, each of the redone dining spaces is 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 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 desks, with the ability to designate a time at which 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.

As far as food options, the renovated cafés feature a mix of local restaurant concepts and house-created brands. Each café will have one signature station, as well. For example, the new Café 16 has a French-themed espresso station called Café au Lait. Café 31 has a Mongolian grill called Flattop 31 and Café 43 sports a Latin concept called Fuego. 

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
spilled coffee beans glasses

Following an initial test at the end of May, Starbucks announced that more than 500 of its stores will be pouring nitro coffee by the end of summer. Capitalizing on the cold-brew coffee trend—which reached $7.9 million in sales in 2015 on 115% growth from the previous year, according to researcher Mintel—select U.S. cafes will give up the counter space to serve the creamy, nitrogen-infused java made from the cold-brew base. But how did nitro become the hottest new thing in coffee?

Bringing the bar to coffeehouses

It was the chrome double tap, similar to a bar’s beer tap, and the...

Ideas and Innovation
tray number

We created lucky tray days to help create an experience surrounding our brand. The trays are numbered; we pick a number and the winner receives a free lunch. We’ve enlisted the help of one of our coaches, who calls out the random lucky winner, and it drums up a lot of excitement.

Menu Development
recipe revamp chicken soup

As a continuous care retirement community, The Garlands of Barrington in Illinois provides daily foodservice to 270 independent living and skilled nursing care residents, with the majority of sodium restrictions coming from the latter, says Executive Chef Nicola Torres. Instead of cooking two versions of chicken noodle soup—a favorite offered at least twice a week—he reworked his recipe into a flavorful lower-sodium version that appeals to all. “Everybody eats soup, so I created a homemade stock that uses no salt at all, ramping up the flavor with fresh herbs and plenty of vegetables,...

Ideas and Innovation
bus advertising jagermeister

Because many locals use the bus system, we paid for some full bus wraps to advertise [job openings within] our dining services program. The buses go all over campus where students can see them, and to apartments where the public can see them. To top it off, the cost wasn’t much more than newspaper rates.

FSD Resources