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

Ideas and Innovation
chefs

We started inviting chefs and FSDs from other districts to come prepare lunch. Through featuring different chefs and chef-inspired meals, I’ve found the students have been looking forward to coming into the cafeteria. They are willing to try new things with crazy names, and to ask for their favorite outside items turned healthy.

Ideas and Innovation
tapas

I’ve created a high school “focus group” to see what future college students will want in terms of foodservice. This year, I called up two now-seniors from the last group to get 10 of their friends together. I also include a sophomore or two so that I always have a contact for next year. Tapas, grain bowls and late-night breakfast all originated from this group.

Ideas and Innovation
making meals

This summer, we teamed up with a church to deliver meals to three housing projects. We brought the meals to the church, and then the church recruited volunteers to deliver the meals to the children. We’ve been very impressed with this new model, and it shows great promise in getting meals to children who otherwise would not be able to leave their housing project.

Industry News & Opinion
sharing love

Having never personally experienced a hurricane, I can only imagine the horrors faced by the millions of people whose lives were affected by Harvey and Irma in late August and early September. It’s a group that comprises uncounted noncommercial operations, including Houston Independent School District, which serves 215,000 students.

But from that tragedy has come one of the most impressive feats of foodservice I’ve seen since coming on board at this magazine, partially spearheaded by Nutrition Officer Betti Wiggins , who only just joined the district. For the entire school year,...

FSD Resources