Microsoft’s Café 36: Renovation Sets New Standard in Workplace Dining

March 1, 2017

Menu authenticity and unconventional brand identity support Microsoft’s core goal of enhancing the employee experience.

Cafe-36-29-veloce-seatingOver the past five years, Microsoft has been implementing Café Lifecycle remodels on its Redmond, Wash., campus as part of a strategy
to continuously improve and enhance the Microsoft employee experience. “By focusing on bringing culinary advancement, technology integration, innovative brands and improved ambiance, we drive overall customer satisfaction and employee participation,” says Mark Freeman, senior manager of Microsoft’s Global Dining Services. “By driving our cafe participation, we enhance Microsoft employee productivity.”

By creating cafes that are compelling to company associates, the dining services group also supports Microsoft in its mission to attract, develop and keep the industry sector’s most sought-after talent.

Selected for lifecycle remodeling due to the age of the facility and declining performance metrics, Café 36, located in Building 36, was closed on Nov. 1, 2015 when construction began and reopened June 6, 2016. Planning began nearly 14 months prior to the cafe’s closure.

“The old cafe was aging, dark, closed-off, uninspiring and had encumbered sight lines and a disjointed design unrelated to the building and the external environment,” Freeman says.

Café 36’s entrance depicts the theme of bringing the outside to the inside and the use of natural woods. Photography courtesy of MG2; photo by Lara Swimmer

This old environment is in sharp contrast to what attracts Microsoft’s associates to cafes. Many are Gen Yers, a group Freeman describes as diverse, smart, innovative and hungry for options and authenticity. They have very high expectations for dining experiences with food transparency and clean food.

Remodel goals include driving participation, enhancing meaningful technology into the customer experience, driving guest satisfaction and enhancing customer convenience, in part by expanding offerings as well as reducing queue times.

Since the renovation, customers walk into Café 36 and become immersed in what project designer Peter Stocker, PSAMA, associate principal at MG2, calls approachable industrial design. “We wanted the cafe to look authentic to the original building,” Stocker says.

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