‘Young foodies’ spark investment in gourmet office kitchens

Consultants are seizing on the opportunity to encourage employers to “smarten up” their kitchens. (Photo: Shutterstock)

It’s not the first place you’d expect to find mouthwatering aromas, but the office kitchen is becoming the site of some pretty fierce cooking—and that could be a good thing.

HRDive points out the potential positives of upgrading office kitchens, as well as their locations, in the wake of a Wall Street Journalreport on gourmet cooking becoming a trend among “young foodies.”

Even though they may not have reached the skill level of Ms. Yeah, a Chinese internet star who cooks elaborate dishes in the office using nothing but “everyday office supplies,” according to a Quartz report, young American workers are doing the next best thing—bringing in fancy kitchen tools such as slicers and other specialized utensils and then assembling all the ingredients to put together a real meal in the office instead of a PB&J sandwich.

As a result, the report says, some employers are actually responding by making their kitchens better places in which to cook, moving corporate kitchens into better locations within their buildings, even choosing sites with windows and devoting more space to them. Some are even going whole hog by adding additional appliances or small kitchen gadgets that don’t violate building code requirements.

Certainly consultants are seizing on the opportunity to encourage employers to “smarten up” their kitchens—many of which, says HRDive, “are little more than coffee niches with just a fridge, coffeemaker and microwave oven”—by citing statistics such as this one from KBI Inc.: “With 57 percent of employees expressing that having a work kitchen would make them more productive, why not invest in making this space as accommodating as possible?”

Or this, from an InTheBlack piece on trends in office design: “Fancy a job where you sit in the sunshine and pick basil for lunch from a rooftop garden?”

But there’s truth lurking beneath these sales pitches, says HRDive, and at least some employers are heeding the idea that employees gathering over cooking and eating a meal can add to employee engagement.

The report points out that “[p]reparing gourmet lunches can be a way for workers to relax and socialize in the workplace. Some might call gourmet cooking at work an employee-driven benefit — especially if the kitchen space enables socializing and relaxed gathering.” And employers are beginning to abandon cubicles in favor of “creative spaces that give workers some flexibility in how and where they work.”

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