Not just for lunch:
Oppressive, old-fashioned mess halls have made way for light, modern restaurants that have transformed eating in the workplace into an experience in its own right.

But it’s not just the tasty and new dishes they offer that have won the latest generation of canteens a loyal following – their impressive design and ambience is also a major factor. These airy, light-filled spaces with comfortable seating and pleasant sounds attract staff members as places to eat and simply spend time. And many companies are actively encouraging their employees to work in staff canteens as well as in their offices. Which is why the new restaurants are often kitted out with separate lounge areas in addition to dining tables and chairs, where employees can work as well as relax during breaks. The idea is that lunchbreaks shouldn’t only be about food, but relaxing too, so that staff members can recharge their batteries and return to their desks able to concentrate and full of motivation. On top of a much improved dining experience, the quality of employees’ work also benefits.

Taking a break together

The decision to eat in the company canteen increases informal contact between employees. This transforms the dining room into a place where people come together and talk, just as they would at home.

In addition to improved motivation and concentration, canteens also help to forge better interpersonal relationships.

It is not unusual to find people from different parts of the company sitting down next to each other at the dining table and talking about what they do. This not only helps to erode the natural barriers between individual departments within the company, but it can also give rise to fresh ideas that take a business to a new level.

A gift from a company to its employees

Modernising canteens should not be taken as read; companies are under no obligation to overhaul their kitchens. In fact, a new canteen should be seen as a gift from a company to its employees. Obviously, companies are not going to plough large sums of money into their canteens without expecting some kind of ROI, such as increased motivation or making them a more attractive employer than their competitors.


Whatever the reasoning, they generate an increased sense of well-being among employees and bring about a role reversal: for a short time, rather than serving the company, they are served by it.  Some staff restaurants have also switched from self-service to table service. This adds an extra layer of convenience and gives employees a feeling of being held in higher regard by the company.

Serving a sensible selection

Although the new staff canteens ultimately still have their limitations, a lot has changed when it comes to what’s actually on the menu. Classics like schnitzel with French fries and Currywurst are increasingly giving ground to meat-free and even vegan options. More and more people these days are trying to eat more healthily and bring more variety into their diet – so it makes no sense to deny them the opportunity to continue in the same vein at work.

traffic light system

At Liechtenstein-based toolmakers Hilti, there is a traffic light system in place, with the dishes coded red, amber or green. Red means that the dish is unhealthy and, as a result, it costs more too. In the case of amber, things are looking up but still not perfectly healthy, while green means go for it – very healthy. Intolerances, allergies and religious restrictions are also shown to make it even easier for employees to make the right choices. The quality of the dishes has also improved. Ultimately, the food is what counts the most.

Google et al set the ball rolling

Internet giants Google, Dropbox and Spotify were the pioneers: an attractive and contemporary canteen is the key to enhancing employees’ performance. Too much time spent staring at a screen can lead to tiredness and malaise – so it is essential that employees have a place to go where they can switch off and regroup. Enjoyment, relaxation and pleasant communication is the perfect combination for a successful break. Some companies even offer their staff free meals. Dropbox sets aside around an incredible USD 6,000 per person per year for food.  But the proof is in the pudding, as the company says that it pays off in the long run, thanks to its hard-working – and happy – employees.

Everyone’s welcome

There are also some firms that open up their canteens to the general public. Die Kantine being a case in point. Located in an office complex, the restaurant caters to employees of Wiener Wohnen and staff members working at Statistics Austria. But it is not restricted to those two companies – this particular canteen is open to everyone at lunchtimes. So if you happen to be passing by and want a good meal, then you are more than welcome to spend your lunch hour at Die Kantine.

Erste Group Vienna

Iki, the Erste Group Vienna canteen, is at the company HQ at the Hauptbahnhof station. Its Asian interiors and dishes are a popular choice among employees and any other guests from outside the company who love Japanese food and spend their lunch breaks at Vienna’s main railway station.


Baked goods manufacturer Bahlsen has a very unique canteen. In its restaurant, employees are free to cook their own food in a set-up that calls for dedication in the kitchen as well as the office.


Marmite Tasty

In Zurich, the staff canteen of F&B magazine Marmite serves up a smorgasbord of delicious dishes every week. Each week, the chefs cook from a different cook book to the previous week’s, bringing variety and a bit of pizzazz to its menu.


Café Wiesn

The internet giant Google is a trailblazer for many, and not just when it comes to the way it works. Its lunches at Café Wiesn also hit the spot with its employees.  Every day, workers are treated to fresh, healthy and free meals. In Munich, the focus is on a Bavarian style with links to the local area to make workers feel at home.