Are in-house coffee bars the new office perk?
A growing number of companies have their own, full-scale cafes with baristas serving gourmet lattes and cold-brewed coffee to their employees.
Once the primary domain of the tech sector, the in-house coffee bar is going mainstream in offices around the world.
Following the lead of companies like Yelp, Twitter and Google, a growing number of companies from professional services firms like JLL to cybersecurity companies like Legitscript and health insurance group Medicare have their own, full-scale cafes with baristas serving gourmet lattes and cold-brewed coffee to their employees.
With 75 percent of full-time employees drinking coffee at work, according to a 2015 report from Packaged Facts, demand is high. In most cases, companies partner with existing coffee brands; LinkedIn for example, has brought Equator into its San Francisco offices to not only offer coffee but also become part of its Foodies program giving employees the chance to take latte art workshops or coffee cocktail classes.
“America, like many other countries, has a strong coffee culture where people have very firm opinions about how they like their coffee,” says DeJeana Chappell, Senior Associate on JLL’s Workplace Strategy Team. “Typical office coffee stations serving generic drinks with limited options to customize have lost their appeal for many employees.”
Today’s mobile lifestyle has a big role to play too. According to the National Coffee Association, 40 percent of Americans drink coffee prepared outside of the home environment. Meanwhile, the rise of flexible working, allowing people on the move to work from cafes, has also fueled the demand for informal work spaces.
“Starbucks is popular because it offers a multi-use environment – free Wi-Fi, a vast range of drink options, and it’s generally comfortable enough to stay for long periods of time and even take meetings there.” Chappell continues. “These multi-functional work environments are driving the desire to have office coffee bars. So, instead of leaving the office and walking down the street, employees walk across the hall.”
It’s not just about saving employees time and money – although in many in-house facilities costs can be up to 50 percent lower than going outside. The big benefit is that café style facilities in offices can help employees to connect better with colleagues and be more productive. “We’re finding that employees at firms with coffee bars are more engaged,” says Chappell. “These cafes create a flexible environment where employees can take a break or hold informal meetings”.
Well-designed spaces can also be used to host casual client meetings in a vibrant environment, helping to reinforce a positive brand image for the company while minimizing the risk of conversations being overheard and often saving money on out-of-office meeting expenses.
Coffee bars aren’t suitable for all work environments; they require a certain number of daily visitors to make them a worthwhile investment. Ingrained company culture can be another stumbling block.
Chappell says some companies are reticent about adding coffee bars to their offices, even where employees want them. “Many firms still operate on the premise that if you’re not at your desk, you’re not working,” she says. “That’s why it’s typically more progressive organizations, such as tech companies and fast growing start-ups, with their emphasis on creative thinking and collaboration, who have really taken the lead.”
Yet attitudes are now changing. “More companies are seeing the value of bringing the nature of hospitality into the office,” says Chappell. “Even if full-scale in-house cafes aren’t a good fit, they can bring aspects of the coffee bar into their spaces such as strategically placed high-end coffee machines, trained staff to maintain them and good quality beans. That can be an easy win.”