- Free food is a popular perk among Silicon Valley giants — but the trend is starting to get major legislative
- Apple does run a highly subsidized cafeteria at its Cupertino, California headquarters.
- Employees at Amazon's Seattle base typically grab food at on-campus cafés, nearby restaurants, or the ever-present fleet of food trucks.
And now that California localities have begun introducing legislation meant to curtail free meals and boost local eateries, we might see more tech giants beginning to follow suit.
Let's take a look at how employees stay fueled throughout the day at Amazon and Apple:
Apple's signature dining space is the massive cafeteria in its Cupertino, California headquarters. The four-story space can hold 4,000 employees.
And now, the cafeteria's massive glass doors can slide open to let light and fresh air stream into the buildings on sunny days.
But this striking setting doesn't offer up any free lunches.
"The idea behind this is that anything that is handed out for free isn’t appreciated," former Apple engineering technician Samad Siddiqui wrote on Quora. "People will take more and waste more food this way."
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This line of thinking actually stems from late Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs himself. He didn't want employees to take the free grub for granted.
But Business Insider reported that the billionaire himself developed a way to scam his own company out of a free lunch when he dined with colleagues. As CEO, Jobs only made a symbolic $1 a year. But he'd charge meals for both himself and his coworkers to his Apple badge.
Former Apple employee Scott Forstall said in an interview that Jobs himself admitted, "I don't know who's paying every time I badge."
The good news for frugal-minded Apple employees is that the cafeteria food is highly subsidized.
Business Insider reported that employees can opt to have their cafeteria purchases deducted from their payroll, meaning that they're "able to get a nice tax break."
Siddiqui wrote that Apple's cafeteria was stocked with "very high quality food at very reasonable prices," citing the example of a $10 batch of fresh sushi.
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The cafeteria offers a range of meals, from breakfast dishes to pasta to gourmet juices to scallops.
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Meanwhile, certain departments — especially those with employees prone to clocking out late — are entitled to order in Apple-reimbursed dinners, according to former Apple hardware engineer and Quora user Ed Chang.
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Employees can also bite into free apples on campus.
In contrast to Apple and other tech giants like Facebook, Amazon doesn't offer many food-centric perks. According to Amazon executive recruiter Brita Altig, that allows employees to branch out and explore what Seattle's eateries have to offer.
An Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider that the Downton Seattle Association found that, since the company moved to South Lake Union in 2010, "more than 2,000 retail businesses have opened in the downtown/SLU neighborhood."
Altig told Business Insider that many coffee vendors are located on the first floor of buildings on campus. Some of these dozen or so Pacific Northwest-based roasteries are accessible to the public.
Altig said her favorite place to grab coffee is Elm Coffee Roasters in the Day One Building. She said they have the "best macchiato" in Seattle. "I would go out of my way to have meetings in that building, just so I can get their coffee."
Altig said that she tends to switch things up for her midday meal, thanks to her "super flexible" schedule. Some days, she brings in food. Other days, she takes a long lunch.
Some times, she grabs a quick custom salad at the the nearby Evergreens Salad and finds a spot on campus. "It's fun to sit outside obviously when the weather's warm," Altig said. "You just get to enjoy the sun and have your salad."
For a more sit-down option, Altig said she favors the Italian fare at Barolo Ristorante. Her go-to order is a chicken Caesar salad, with grilled romaine lettuce and homemade dressing.
She said she also likes the alternating ravioli dish but added, "I don't always get that, because I feel like I need a nap after I eat that."
Altig also occasionally turns to an Amazon staple: food trucks. A 50-strong fleet of food trucks descends on South Lake Union every day, according to an Amazon spokesperson.
Altig's favorite is the "I Heart My GFF" food truck. That acronym stands for "gluten free food." Her top order is the "sunshine bowl," a concoction that includes feta cheese, red bell peppers, broccoli, green onions, and chicken.
When it comes time for happy hour, Altig said that there's no one "Amazon bar." If you work in Amazon's Brazil building, you could pop downstairs for a drink in Sam's Tavern, which is housed in the same building. Other popular spots are Local or Brave Horse Tavern, the latter which Altig said "has the most amazing pretzels and beer."
According to Altig, the culture at Amazon ensures that employees are frequently going out on the town together, whether to partake in a business lunch or celebratory drinks after a "big team win." "Food is typically something that brings people together," she said.
And, for Amazon employees looking for free food to fill their bellies, there's always the Community Banana Stand.