There’s just something about food that brings people together, whether it’s gathering in a kitchen to chat or breaking bread at the dinner table. In one corporation’s case, they viewed a renovated cafeteria, fine dining restaurant, and coffee shop as an opportunity to do just that—provide a unique, engaging gathering place for their employees.
Supporting Talent Attraction and Retention
Prior to the renovation, the corporation’s office building—centrally located on one of the company’s campuses—featured a coffee stand and a small sandwich shop, as the existing cafeteria had shut down several years prior. The company was in the midst of renovating adjacent office buildings and relocating employees to refreshed spaces. And those additional employees needed more on-site food options.
“With their cafeteria renovation, our client wanted to provide a unique destination space while creating an experience that was consistent with its main campus,” said the project’s interior designer from Carson Design Associates.
According to the corporation’s facility planner, the project supported a key goal of attracting and retaining talent. To elevate the environment and enhance the employee experience, the corporation wanted to not only upgrade the existing space but also incorporate a restaurant that could be used at the end of the workday.
“We’re transforming our entire campus to make the facilities more modern and collaborative, and this is one example of that,” the facility planner said. “We wanted to be cost effective but also wanted to try a new concept—an open, modern facility with an after-hours option for cocktails and appetizers. The design team also needed to strike the right look and feel, given all the different types of employees that would be interacting in the space, from IT and marketing to manufacturing and operations.”
From a functional perspective, the corporation also wanted to provide their food service company with a leading-edge facility that offered flexibility, self-serve registers, and other helpful features.
To help meet the client’s goals, Carson Design contracted with Reitano Design Group, a food service consultant. In addition, the corporation’s architect, facilities planner, food service leadership, and supplier relationships/employee experience representative were all engaged in the design process.
“We thought through everything and took the time to do it right, from touring other sites to working closely with the design team,” the corporation’s facility planner said.
Addressing Complexity With Creativity
Renovation projects typically provide a variety of challenges for design and construction teams to address. Such was the case with the cafeteria renovation, with dynamics ranging from the layout of the existing, nearly 30-year-old-structure to underground elements like grease traps that were no longer functional.
“We felt that an organic, softened approach would be ideal for the space, but it had to work with the angular, straight-lined footprint of the building,” the interior designer said.
To create the desired atmosphere, the design team took the interior walls down, changing the cafeteria from a closed-off space to an inviting environment. Overhead garage doors between the cafeteria and the fine dining restaurant provide flexibility, allowing for additional seating options and connectivity when opened and an intimate setting in the restaurant when closed. In addition, doors and abundant glass foster physical and visual connections to the bordering courtyard.
Given the dining area’s central location just beyond the building’s main entry, Carson Design considered how the placement and curved pattern of terrazzo flooring would relate to future renovations to the lobby.
The design team also needed to be creative when planning how to fabricate elements—like the large, custom soffit over the bar—while staying in line with the budget.
“We didn’t really have a good feel about what a project like it would cost, but we knew what we were targeting,” the facility planner said. “Carson Design did an exceptional job creating a completely different look while finding cost-effective solutions that didn’t sacrifice design quality.”
While the corporation has specific standards for the furniture and finish selections in their offices, the design team had more leeway for the restaurant, cafeteria, and coffee shop.
“The project allowed us to be creative while working within a framework of the budget and the users’ goals,” Carson Design’s interior designer said. “The result is a melding of a corporate look, an inviting feel, and a techy edge.”
Located in an operational building with construction occurring in adjacent spaces, the project had to be phased and required close coordination with the general contractor during construction administration. The coffee bar and sandwich shop moved into a temporary space adjacent to the cafeteria so the services were still available to employees during construction.
Sending a New Message
The resulting restaurant and coffee shop create a welcoming environment for employees, allowing them to have an out-of-office experience while technically remaining in the building.
“From different seating types to lighting, we wanted to give people options for experiencing the space,” the interior designer said. “Whether employees are having a quick meeting or are taking a break from the workday, they can find places that accommodate their needs.”
“We see a lot of people using the space for one-on-one meetings,” said the facility planner. “The coffee shop has been a huge hit, too. Clearly we did it right.”
The cafeteria and kitchen are designed to accommodate fluctuations in traffic and changes to meal offerings.
“As with anything in food services, it’s an evolution,” said the corporation’s supplier relationships/employee experience representative. “The flexibility of the cafeteria and restaurant allows us to try new models based on how the spaces are being used. That’s a testament to Carson Design and Reitano Design Group, who gave us phenomenal recommendations.”
In addition to providing much-needed food service, the project demonstrates that the company has put a priority on the employee experience. When employees were asked to relocate to the building, the designs for the dining area created a sense of excitement about their new space.
“It sent a message that the company is investing in these spaces and in this campus,” the facility planner said. “The dining area is one of the first things visitors and employees see when they walk in the front door. When candidates tour the areas they might be working in, they see the vibrant dining space and how much it’s being used, which is a benefit. Carson Design Associates designed an amazing space that has been very well received. It has helped us completely transform the image of the campus while incorporating design trends from around the globe.”
. . .
- Carson Design: Interior design, space planning, and architecture
- Reitano Design Group: Culinary design consulting
- Mussett, Nicholas & Associates, Inc.: Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering
- TLF, Inc.: Structural engineering
- Messer Construction: Construction
- CBRE: Project management