My New Kitchen – Google staff canteen

08 June 2012
My New Kitchen – Google staff canteen

The task of providing sustenance to employees at Google's two London sites has been entrusted to Restaurant Associates, part of Compass Group. Diane Lane had a look round Market Square Café, the company's catering facility at its new building in Central St Giles

Although the catering facility at Google UK's new offices at London's Central St Giles technically qualifies as a business and industry (B&I) site, it's a rather different proposition to the norm.

Good food is an integral part of the culture at Google, and the company has gone the extra mile to ensure that its employees - known internally as Googlers - have it in abundance.

"We want to feed our team with the freshest and best food available," says Jim Glass, food services manager for Google.

The task of providing sustenance to the Googlers at both of the company's London sites (the UK headquarters are in Victoria) has been entrusted to Restaurant Associates, part of Compass Group. In charge of operations is executive chef Adrian Evans, while Domenica Lacona is head chef at Market Square Café, the catering facility at the new building.

The Central St Giles building houses Google's UK sales and media hub over three full floors and two half-floors, with about 1,500 employees on site and, unsurprisingly, uptake of the catering offer is high.

The main dining area is located on the fourth floor, although a further, smaller facility has been installed on the ninth floor to provide another eating destination when on-site numbers grow. Additionally, there are micro-kitchens on each floor for hot and cold drinks and fruit so refreshments are always available close to work areas. Sustainability was a key consideration in the design of all kitchens and in the selection of equipment.

The fourth floor dining area consists of large tables in a refectory-like set-up rather than tables for four or six, the idea being that the employees eat as a community and are encouraged to share ideas. The café is open for breakfast from 8am to 10am and lunch is available from 12 noon to 2.30pm.

The project involved catering design consultant Tricon, with C&C Catering Equipment as the installer. In designing the catering facilities, Tricon drew on its previous experience of working with Google at other locations, and with various types of business from B&I to retail sites, to arrive at a bespoke solution that answered all the client's needs.

Senior design consultant at Tricon, Russell Baynes, explains, "What makes the site special is that the food is free-issue. Whereas in a normal B&I site customers are channelled through to the tills at the end, here it's a market environment where customers are free to come and choose from an array of counters."

The idea behind the concept was a modern take on Borough Market, with an emphasis on sustainability and locally sourced produce, where staff can graze and are encouraged to go back and help themselves to as much hot or cold food as they like.

From the start, the decision was made to have an open kitchen for an element of theatre in addition to the transparency of preparing food in front of customers, as Glass explains: "We wanted an open-plan kitchen so Googlers could see what's going on and to help set high expectations from them."

The island cooking suite sits directly behind the hot servery counter and is anything but a conventional commercial kitchen suite. The front-of-house design has been carried through, so the side on full view to customers is effectively a sturdy oak table with a white marble top inset with three Menu System induction hobs. This provides a flexible space where, as Baynes says, "one minute the chefs can be chopping and prepping, and the next flicking on the induction and cooking."

This unit wraps around to a single-chassis mobile stainless steel Ambach suite consisting of a griddle unit, deep-fat fryers and an ambient infill section, on top of which sits a Panasonic microwave oven. Along the back wall are two 20-grid Rational combi-ovens either side of an Ambach pressure bratt pan.

A two-tier Bakers Pride deck oven provides another theatre aspect. Evans explains: "We wanted everything in the open plan area to be things people would be interested in seeing, in addition to having functionality. The deck ovens serve as a focal point in the café and the baking of pizzas, calzone and items such as traybakes is ongoing throughout lunch service."

Since quite a lot of production is happening on show, the back-of-house facilities are kept to a minimum with a small prep area, housing a prep bench with undercounter refrigerator by Foster and a 60-quart Hobart floor mixer for pizza dough, situated next to the dry and chilled storage area.

There are two modular coldrooms also by Foster, as is a double-door freezer, a blast chiller and a refrigerated counter. The coldroom doors are bespoke with windows and retro handles since they too are visible to diners.

The dishwashing area is equipped with a Winterhalter rack-type machine and also features a carousel that customers fill with dirties from the other side, above a recycling counter.

Front-of-house there are several counters from which diners help themselves, including a bread station equipped with a Hatco Toast-Qwik conveyor toaster, and a soup station. An L-shaped run of counters provides a chilled display of salads and other cold items. The chilled wells have been tweaked from a standard counter design to incorporate an extra gantry, ensuring all the food is properly lit for maximum impact. Additional features include removable chopping boards to provide flexibility of display from breakfast to lunch.

Healthy eating is facilitated by colour-coding dishes in accordance with the Harvard food pyramid so diners can make an informed choice, and further interest in culinary matters is encouraged by visiting chefs - so far Ferran Adrià, Michel Roux Jnr and Jamie Oliver - who give demonstrations and talk to employees.

Upstairs on level nine, the second kitchen is designed to function as a pop-up restaurant. Although it's smaller than the main kitchen, it also has the flexibility to deliver various cuisines from Asian to Italian. There's a further Ambach cooking suite with induction, a 10-grid Rational combi-oven and a Josper charcoal oven for an element of theatre.

When Friday arrives, the Market Square Café is open at 4.30pm to mark the end of the working week and to help Googlers start winding down for the weekend with beer, wine and pizzas, an event known as TGIF (Thank Google it's Friday).

The far side of the cooking suite is partly hidden by a services riser and houses a griddle unit - with both smooth and ribbed plates - and deep-fat fryers, both by Ambach, and a Panasonic microwave

The hot servery counter is self-service and customers are free to visit it more than once during service

*The appearance of the cooking suite to diners is that of an oak bench with inset induction hobs*


Ambach 0471 662213

Bakers Pride/Josper 0845 5048050

C&C Catering Equipment 01244 625170

Foster Refrigerator 0843 216 8800

Hatco 01509 260 150

Hobart 0844 888 7777

Menu System 01707 361770

Panasonic 01296 663400

Rational 0800 389 2944

Tricon Foodservice Consultants 020 8591 5593

Winterhalter 01908 359000

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