By Michelle Bravin, KBM-Hogue[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he growth of businesses in the Bay Area headlines the news almost weekly, often noting the trend of high-tech firms providing a wide range of amenities for the attraction and retention of their workforce. As part of this ongoing effort to stay competitive, many high-tech firms incorporate state-of-the-art cafés that rival many restaurants in the Bay Area. The success of these projects is made up of a myriad of elements, anchored by good design.
In our current environment, where good design is a currency that high-tech firms wield to keep recruit and retain employees, corporate cafés are often shaped by interior design firms. Specifically, these are places where restaurant influences help create a welcoming, collaborative environment that encourages productivity. Below are four types of tech café projects—some more common than others—each with a varying level of restaurant influence.
The first type is a café space where food is served to employees. These cafés tend to utilize company-branded furniture, small tables, and chairs for breakout conversations. The tables and chairs in this case have evolved from the old-style stacking chairs of decades past into warm, stylish wooden and upholstered chairs. Similarly, the tables have interesting or thematic details, a feature often seen in larger restaurants.
Another type of space is an on-campus café that is open to the public as well as employees. In this case, these companies are partnering with retail to function in part as public restaurants, catering both to employees meeting for coffee and trading ideas and also members of the community or people from different industries collaborating on team projects. An example of this is located in Samsung’s San José office, where the furniture features soft seating in luxe fabrics, banquettes in cool shapes, and large community tables.
Some companies place a café in the lobby of their building, which is another commonly used café strategy. This shows a commitment to maximize collaboration and presents the café as a centerpiece of the experience of working at that company. Employees meet there to have coffee in the morning, and project meetings often happen around a large community table, much like conversation around a dinner table. A combination of bar-height tables with stools and lower tables with a textured, hard surface create a welcoming, collaborative, yet casual and homey atmosphere. Cisco has taken this concept to heart in its Re+Boot buildings, where a café welcomes occupants on each floor.
The last type of café space we’ve seen recently is actually adapted from former restaurants. Our office is currently working with a few technology and biotechnology clients who are renovating these venues for use as company cafés. On one such project, the booths are being refinished in distressed leather and the greeter’s desk is being repurposed into a reception station, but the beer garden will remain a beer garden—because there’s obviously no improvement that can be made there!
It’s unlikely that the trend of high-tech companies bringing cafés onto their campuses will be curbed anytime soon, and we look forward to continuing to help all the big names of Silicon Valley get the design right.
As the director of the San José office of KBM-Hogue, Michelle Bravin focuses on identifying and securing business with large clients. She has more than a decade of experience in the office furniture industry, working with major clients such as Stanford Healthcare and Cisco. Michelle has developed lasting relationships as a result of her ability to work smartly, connect in a positive manner, and provide first-class service.
This article will also appear in The VIEW, the quarterly publication jointly curated by the three Bay Area chapters of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW)—CREW San Francisco, CREW East Bay, and CREW Silicon Valley. CREW is a nationwide business networking organization dedicated to the advancement of women in commercial real estate. For chapter news, events, and membership information, visit the Bay Area member organization websites at crewsf.org, creweastbay.org, and crewsv.org.