2015 F&B revenue: $110M*
2015 F&B purchases: $120M*
Audience size: 55,000*
Location: Redmond, Wash.
Revolution, one step at a time
With the resources of one of the nation’s most prominent tech companies behind him, how does Mark Freeman, senior manager of employee services for Microsoft, harness all that power? Two words: “ingredient revolution,” or providing diners more transparency about where their food comes from and how it’s taken care of. The ingredient revolution has “been an interesting journey because it’s taken us into a lot of different places,” Freeman says.
1. Misfit produce program
Freeman’s team talked to farmers, and realized 40% of crops were being towed under because they were unattractive. Microsoft’s use of “ugly” produce gives customers a good feeling, he says, because “the farmer has taken time and energy to grow it.”
2. Soldier flies
Freeman says his team recently learned about these insects, which eat up to 30 times their own weight in garbage—or, in this case, plant-based waste. “As we start to understand the 360-degree economics of somebody’s waste becoming somebody else’s fuel, we look at the soldier fly, and that becomes food for fish; fish through aquaponics become food for plants; plants become food for flies,” he says.
3. Hydroponic towers
The misfit program got the dining team thinking about how far its produce had traveled to reach Microsoft’s campus—which led to growing 14,000-plus pounds of lettuce and microgreens annually in 55 cafe installations. “We’ve cut our carbon footprint from 600 miles to 6 feet,” Freeman says.
4. Efficient growth
Because Microsoft dining’s customers are, in fact, techies, they wanted to see how data could be applied to hydroponic towers. Software developers wrote programs to monitor water, pH, nutrients, humidity and more to predict when the hydroponic tower’s plants will need nutrients “instead of them asking for it, if you will,” Freeman says.
5. Managing big data
Not only does monitoring the towers allow Freeman’s team not to overproduce, the process “opened up some ideas around food waste, and how we’re dealing with it.” Data from cash register sales, employee badge swipes, daily traffic reports, weather forecasts and moon phases is being matched up as part of a waste reduction initiative. “What we’re finding is that all the data streams that are out there are starting to tell us a story,” Freeman says.
Microsoft dining—by the numbers
3.6M Cups of tea consumed annually
1.8M Bottles of lemon-lime flavored Talking Rain water consumed annually, making it the most popular free beverage
917,000 Pizza slices sold annually
90+ Dining destinations in the Puget Sound region, including 12 food trucks and three full-service restaurants
2,064 Average daily transactions at Cafe 16, the most popular eatery on campus
Source: Compass Group supporting Microsoft Real Estate & Facilities