Are you wondering whether or not that corporate cafeteria can act as a new “third place” environment”: a social surrounding not quite the workplace: definitely not the home?

Perhaps a comfortable environment where one can go to relax and socialize really is the future of the corporate dining experience.
If so, who will be the ultimate beneficiary, the company or the employee?

Formerly, the impetus to build or refurbish a company’s cafe was driven by the corporation’s mandate to keep their staff productively on campus during the 9-5 workday. Now, having a trendy one has become both a status symbol and a leading perk sought after by career hunters. 

With the advent of mobile tech, Digital Nomads can have their offices wherever there’s a Wi-Fi signal. Telecommuters, upon their less frequent visits to HQ, have come to expect a competitive, diverse meal selection, on par with retail, all in a laid-back, comfortable environment where they can catch up socially with their peers.
Corporate dining providers now must learn to operate profitably in newly confined spaces, with a shrinking daily population, while catering to increasingly sophisticated heterogeneous palates.

Building such micro-sites had been heretofore problematic, as comestible offerings might have been limited due to the suitability of the real estate available for food preparation.

EVO Grill

Ventless cooking tech, powered by electric appliances, has provided a speedy, cost-effective and safe means to eliminate the impediment of space constraints. In addition to the patina of sustainability, electric is clearly seen a much safer alternative to gas by code officials and operators; its day has truly arrived.

From ventless’ humble beginnings in non-traditional locations such as kiosks, it has grown to encompass mainstream installations. Cooking equipment options include self-contained combi-oven-steamers & deep-fryers, ductless hood systems, downdraft griddles, and the ubiquitous accelerated ovens.

Leading chain restaurant proponents of the “third place” ambiance were also early adopters of ventless cooking technologies including most instantly recognizable names in the coffee, bakery-cafe and sandwich arenas.  The appeal of quality rapid cooking and the elimination of the traditional hood allowed them to expand exponentially, eventually overtaking the unit development of even the most storied of national accounts.

SOTA oven

Just about any menu can now be prepared in practically any environment.  Just as retail leaseholders began discovering the portability and tax advantages of these technologies, now workplace feeders are coming to realize the same benefits that are to be attained. The bonds between real estate and foodservice development have been broken.  No longer is the commercial kitchen tied to a specific turf.  Micro cafeterias can pop-up and diverse food can be prepared for and served to the team in any venue.

Prior to the advent of ductless cooking, the primary driving force behind any kitchen design was establishing the hood and its support equipment parameters. Site surveys almost always led with the problematic decisions of where, how, and how much.  Unsightly rooftop fans, hazardous space-stealing chase ways, vulnerable roof penetrations (potentially roof warranty voiding), and HVAC system engineering, as well as increased build-out and operating costs are mitigated with the proliferation of ventless installations.

Temporary space (and really, what space isn’t?) developers suddenly are able to boast of having a visceral connection to prospective tenants/clients/employees via the varied foodservice offered and the comfort of that experience.

Clearly, the benefits of this emerging technology are reaching the tipping point and disrupting traditional notions of foodservice.  Enabling shared workspace and unconventional leaseholds to offer diverse menus is only the tip of the iceberg.

Ventless electric cooking is helping to redefine the “third place” for society.

Ventless electric is rounding what’s on second, not looking back to who’s on first, on its way to stealing third place.

Flat Stomach