Office X Missouri

The forgotten office amenity? It's no longer the cafeteria

Wells Fargo's cafeteria of the future,ph20

Owners today pump big dollars into office amenities, everything from sprawling onsite fitness centers to yoga studios to conference rooms boasting the latest in AV tech, all to attract tenants to their towers and parks and to keep them there once they've recruited them.

But there's one area that the owners of office parks and towers often neglect: their onsite cafeterias.

A cafeteria is an important amenity, one that owners or companies can use to attract and retain employees. But what if these companies and owners offered cafeterias that felt more like modern restaurants?

Cafeterias don't have to be drab places serving bland burgers and wilted salads. The right cafeteria, one that's bright and stocked with healthy food options, can be a key tool for owners hoping to keep their office spaces filled each year.

Just look at the work that St. Louis-based architecture and design firm Arcturis did for Wells Fargo. Arcturis designed a new cafeteria space at the Wells Fargo Advisors office at One North Jefferson in St. Louis. The new space features bright colors, wide spaces and comfortable seating. It looks more like a casual restaurant than it does a workplace cafeteria.

The space now features a media wall; conference rooms; huddle rooms designed for smaller, more informal gatherings; and a series of breakout spaces. In essence, the cafeteria is no longer just a place to grab a quick bite. It's now a space appropriate for meetings and conferences, too.

The food is better, too, with the cafeteria offering a menu of healthy choices for the Wells Fargo workers.

Julie Keil, the lead principal behind the project, said that Wells Fargo's cafeteria had become outdated with food service that was antiquated. This isn't surprising; the cafeteria had been built in the 1980s when the head count was lower at the Wells Fargo campus. The cafeteria was designed to serve a lower capacity of workers.

Keil and her team started working on a new cafeteria space here way back in 2012, when the team first began running studies.

"We did a lot of analysis on where the new cafeteria should be on campus," Keil said.

Wells Fargo eventually settled on a design and location it liked, and the new cafeteria opened late last year.

The results? Keil said that Wells Fargo officials, and the company's employees, are happy with the new direction. The cafeteria has now become a showcase amenity, one that Wells Fargo recruiters make sure to show potential employers when they're touring the campus.

"In today's corporate world, employee engagement, recruitment and retention are so important," Keil said. "Not only did Wells Fargo solve a building need, it provided its people a space that they can recharge in. They can hold meetings here. They had antiquated facilities, and now they have a modern space that serves a variety of needs."

Keil refers to the space as a type of work-life cafe. Yes, the cafeteria now serves a range of healthier options designed to keep employees feeling better. But it also boasts those break-out rooms and a large, multi-purpose space that can accommodate up to 1,000 people.

"Wells Fargo uses it as a tool when the company brings on new employees," Keil said. "It's the first space they show them. Even during the recruiting process, it becomes an important space."

What sets Wells Fargo’s cafeteria apart from older versions? The vendor providing the food rotates its choices throughout the year, and offers plenty of salads, soups and healthier fare. The cafeteria has a large audio-visual panel that provides a stream of information to employees at the cafeteria, everything from upcoming community events to the latest national news.

But Keil says that the variety of spaces in the cafeteria are what make this dining option unique. There are spaces set aside for large collaborations, areas that are perfect for small meetings between two or three employees and medium-size meeting rooms.

“The goal here was to provide a flexible space and to promote the overall health and wellness of the employees at the campus,” Keil said. “We see other corporations are focusing on the importance of health and wellness, the overall employee experience. We are seeing that this is on the rise in corporate America.”