The Corporate Diner: lunch at Google

The free cafés are successful because they are ingenious

No Name Café, Google, Building 43, 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043

Food: Seasonal, with vegetarian and raw options

Value for money: Unimprovable (Google offers staff free meals)

Corporate mission: Officially: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. Unofficially: “Don’t be evil”.

In the heart of the Googleplex in Silicon Valley, California, I am sitting down to lunch at No Name Café for the third time this week. Of the 16 canteens on campus, No Name is my current favourite – only a three-minute stroll from my office building, and serving delicious food by chef Scott Giambastiani (formerly of the excellent Mediterranean restaurant Viognier in San Mateo). It’s a great place to bump into people – and ideas.

Today I pile my plate high with pot roast, organic yellow wax beans and grilled Alba Farms squash. I move on to Challah apple bread pudding made with free range eggs, topped by a scoop of just-invented chocolate dessert (avocados, Dutch cocoa, magic). Out on the patio, muss-haired engineers are picking at arugula, peach and pecorino salads and sipping on basil and cucumber-infused water. I finish with a cup of Four Barrels decaf coffee.

I would happily have paid $30 for my lunch, but thanks to Google these meals are free. Responsibly sourced food (vegan brownies, steroid-free chicken) keeps staff productive and happy, and health bills low.

Google’s free cafés are like its free products: successful not only because they cost nothing, but because they are ingenious. And everyone from programmers to internet founder Vint Cerf waits in line with their tray.

How does your workplace canteen compare? Send your reviews to ftweekendmagazine@ft.com

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