Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Google goes gourmet -- how Google "caters" to its employees

By Aussiegirl

On just a little humorous note, I wonder if Thomas Lifson was a bit hungry when he wrote this article :)

However, as appealing as it sounds to have your employer cater three free gourmet meals a day, and even though it seems to make some sense business-wise, the bottom-line is that this is one way to get people to put in virtually 24 hour days. All they need to put in place next are luxury dorm rooms, laundry service, etc., and then people need never leave the office.

Part of me gets a bit queasy, however, as this sounds for all the world like a capitalist version of a collective -- only you are being seduced by the "goodies". Furthermore, this kind of all-encompassing work environment almost has the smell of a cult about it -- you eat, work, relax and talk only with people within your company. Do you need a private life at all? Couldn't this eventually lead to a dangerous group-think that will stifle creativity and reward conformity, rather than the opposite? Or perhaps that is what the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-caring corporation of the future desires? That you become a willing slave to their blanket of parental smothering protection. There's nothing that makes people creative like hunger and competitiveness.

Can those gourmet meals also seduce you into forgetting about your principles when you censor internet users in China? How about when you reveal the names of journalists who end up in jail? Are we heading into a creepy era of global corporations taking the place of the nation state, complete with cradle to grave benefits, collective pressure to conform, and in the end -- a complete loss of freedom? Maybe we need to wake up and smell the double-latte mocha Kona.

The American Thinker

Google provides three meals a day, for free, to all employees. It has opened a succession of what amount to theme restaurants with names like Cafe 150, Charlie’s Cafe, No-Name Cafe, Charleston Cafe and Pacific Cafe, all over the campus. Employees get their food in cafeteria lines and sit at tables with no linen service because self-service imparts a sense of equality congruent with the company’s image and self-proclaimed values. But otherwise, the dining looks and sounds like the food experience in many chi-chi restaurants in Berkeley, San Francisco, or Palo Alto.

The company is spending whatever it takes to bring healthy, fresh, delicious, made-from-scratch organic food to its employees at a the Mountain View, California campus. No outside contractor dishes up hamburgers and fries. Well-compensated company employees in Chef outfits emblazoned with the Google name take extraordinary care to bring top cuisine.

Before you dismiss the move as simply a typically flaky California indulgence of food fads, consider the strategic advantages the company is reaping from the investment in on-campus cuisine.

A strategic vision from the start

Sergei Brin and Larry Page, Google’s founders, have taken an active role in setting the direction of the company’s food service strategy. Back when Google had about 50 employees, they hired Charlie Ayers, formerly the caterer to the Grateful Dead, to cook for them. Such chefs do not come cheap, but evidently Messrs. Brin and Page believed from the start that they should endeavor to remove the topic of food from the worry list of those working long hours for them. Evidently, they intended to treat their valued employees like rock stars. What could be more Silicon Valley?

Everything is taken care of, three times a day. Instead of a burden, requiring planning, shopping, traveling, or even cooking, eating became an opportunity to mix with other Googlers (that’s what they call themselves), and to enjoy interesting and varied food that would help them maintain their health.

“We eat here because it’s better food than in restaurants, it’s healthy, there’s variety and it’s more casual,” says 23-year-old software engineer Jason Byers, lunching recently at No-Name Cafe with Manish Gupta, 30, and Dmitriy Portnov, 28. It’s also “an opportunity to talk casually,” says Gupta, a vegetarian.


At 7:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Google 24/7 would make me Gaggle

At 2:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, Aussiegirl, I read this article, thought of how lucky those employees were to get such first-class treatment, and never thought further about the implications of such around-the-clock attention. You're right -- as you have been so often -- to see more negative aspects to this superficially benign policy. It's your own history that gives you this ability to sniff out the collective, the possibility of group-think, in such a policy -- and this ability makes for a great blog and great, insightful posts. Keep up the good work!

At 12:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Insightful, as usual.

I agree that it could be an ominous precursor to indoctrination of group-think.

Let's just hope that there is enough of a free-market mechanism to keep companies like Google in check. Perhaps there's another dot-com bust on the horizon.

Hmmm... maybe Google would be a good prospect to short-sell?


Post a Comment

<< Home