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
chicken and waffles

Our elementary menu is currently riding the breakfast-anytime advertising trend by offering Breakfast for Lunch every Tuesday. It ranks as our highest participation, and it was a great way for us to introduce chicken and waffles inspired by an IHOP dish.

Ideas and Innovation
dress code geeks

Team uniforms are a way we encourage fun. I tell the mangers that every person on your team needs to look like a member of your team, but they can decide together what they want to wear. When the students see a cafeteria person that is matching and having fun with their outfits, they relate to those people better. We don’t want them to look stiff and stuffy.

Menu Development
meatloaf slices plate

“This is the best meatloaf I’ve ever had,” a diner at Alcatel-Lucent telecommunications in Naperville, Ill., once told chef Iraj Fernando. The dish was rooted in a tried-and-true source—the “Betty Crocker Cookbook.”

“I just seasoned the breadcrumbs differently, used fresh parsley and beat the eggs to make them frothier,” says Fernando, executive chef and manager for Southern Foodservice Management.

Consumer interest is up for classic and comforting meat dishes like meatballs (16%), beef pot pie (26%) and meatloaf (12%) for dinner now compared to two years ago, shows...

Ideas and Innovation
oxford school district cafeteria

We have spent considerable money making cafeterias cool again. New paint jobs, crazy color patterns, custom graphics and changes in lighting schemes have made some of our cafes popular gathering places. We’ve also experimented with videos, cable TV programs and music. We involved a number of student groups and student input in improving the atmosphere, especially in our high school and middle school cafeterias.

FSD Resources