- Facebook offered workers a dizzying array of food options before the pandemic.
- The culinary offerings will be greatly scaled back for employees returning to the New York office.
- Some staffers said last year that they saw the lavish gourmet spreads as part of their compensation.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Facebook offers its workers salaries that reach well into the six figures, gleaming new offices, and a long list of other job perks.
None, however, is perhaps as beloved by the company’s 60,000 employees as the free food.
The $900 billion social media giant provides a cornucopia of culinary offerings in major office hubs, including in New York City, where it leases several million square feet of space across several buildings.
Facebook has said it will begin to welcome employees back into its offices starting in July. When they get there, however, they will encounter a workplace changed by post-pandemic norms of social distancing and hybrid virtual and in-person work and, perhaps most startlingly, a greatly limited menu of food options.
Eton Chan, an executive chef at Facebook who oversees its food operations at its Manhattan headquarters at 770 Broadway, said the company will only provide an abbreviated menu of prepackaged meals and snacks at the location as employees return in the coming months.
Gone, for the time being, will be the sweeping breadth of options that employees had grown accustomed to before the pandemic shuttered workplaces across the country. Its absence could create another hurdle in drawing employees — many of whom have become used to working remotely — back to the office.
At 770 Broadway, where Facebook has about 775,000 square feet spread across nine floors, the company has three large food halls, a gelato and juice bar, a collection of food carts and several micro kitchens.
When Insider visited the lavish offices in 2017, there was a pizza station, house-made frozen yogurt, and a dedicated pastry chef. “The food is great and the menu is different every day, which is really nice,” engineering director Jeff Reynar said at the time. “We get breakfast, lunch, dinner and coffee. You don’t always have to go out to a restaurant.”
But those spaces have been virtually dormant since the pandemic erupted in the country a little over a year ago.
The pre-pandemic culinary offerings were restaurant-quality
Chan said that Facebook used to serve about 50,000 meals at 770 Broadway in an average week — all at no cost to employees.
Facebook had an Asian-themed food hall called Kung Food on the third floor with a conveyor belt of sushi and a freezer full of mochi ice cream balls. Another cafeteria, Desimone’s, named in memory of the company’s first chef, is on the eighth floor and equipped with a salad bar and deli, soup, pastry, and pizza stations, and a hot food area that served a revolving menu, including buffalo chicken pizza every Wednesday.
FBGB, on the 15th floor, offered fully plated meals. Before the pandemic, that outpost had taken to creating dishes that emulated some of the famous offerings from New York best restaurants, like the shrimp rigatoni from Italian eatery Carbone.
Workers could get fresh-squeezed orange juice, cold-brew coffee (both nitro-infused and regular), or kombucha on tap, or make their own espresso on $20,000 La Marzocco machines. Royal Palms, the juice bar, served up all manner of juice shots, including wheatgrass, along with gelato and waffle cones.
Every day, Desimone’s would stage a cookie hunt, stashing a massive plate of fresh-baked cookies somewhere in the office for employees to find.
On the 10th floor, food carts served Halal and Mexican food and barbecue. Snacks were offered daily at 3 p.m.
Some Facebook employees saw the free food as part of their compensation
Chan acknowledged it might be difficult for some employees to get used to the new reality of sparser eating options.
“The employees are constantly at their desks working very hard,” Chan said. “During breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we’re trying to give them quiet time with their friends and peace of mind with a good meal. It helps break up the day and bring comfort.”
During the pandemic, some employees suggested that they viewed office food, which is complimentary for employees, as a significant portion of their compensation.
The Verge reported a leaked internal poll from July 16, after Facebook employees had been working at home for several months, included the question: “A major sell to candidates is our office perks include free food. And now, with work from home, we’ve lost a huge financial part of our package. What is the plan on this?”
“I’m not sure if I’m missing something from this question,” Zuckerberg said, responding to the question, in an audio clip obtained by the Verge, “but I certainly haven’t seen any data that suggests that free food is anywhere near the list of primary reasons that people come to work at this company. I hope it’s not. …I’d imagine that you’re here for some combination of reasons around the mission of the company, the impact that we can have in the world, trying to make sure that that’s as positive as possible. … Those are typically the things that come up, not free food.”
The slimmer options may prompt those who do come back into the office to spend less time there.
“We’re not going to say, ‘Hey! Stay at work cause you’re going to want to eat this next meal,’ Chan said. “In this pandemic environment, it’s possibly just going to be pick up your food, eat at your desks and get your work done.”
Chan said he didn’t know when Facebook’s food operation at 770 Broadway would return to its former glory, but assured it would be eventually restored.
“It’s going to be some months before things look like they were,” Chan said. “If the virus numbers look good, I could see us opening incrementally — but not all at once. There are a lot of other variables that need to be considered before re-opening.”
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