Food is provided free of charge and beyond – Orange County Register

Food is provided free of charge and beyond – Orange County Register

Office dining is becoming the new workplace. At Evolution Hospitality, a 60-person hotel management company in San Clemente, employees sit around a large communal table during lunch. The company’s kitchen — called the Break Room — opens into a living room with a ping-pong table and three TVs tuned to the Surf Network.

The old saying that the heart of the home is the kitchen now applies to the office as well.

Companies are making kitchens and dining areas within offices their hub Workplaces To help employees meet and mingle, boost morale – and feed people.

This trend is evident from the photos and descriptions I received after putting out a call for Orange County businesses to share what’s unique or special about their kitchens and break rooms.

Some local companies have created lavish dining and lounge areas that wouldn’t look out of place in a design magazine. Elsewhere the physical spaces are more modest, but are used to feed employees on a regular basis, including daily breakfasts and lunches or weekly meals where the boss wears an apron and does all the cooking.

Kitchens have become so important that some companies make them the first places visitors see. For the headquarters A Los Angeles-area entertainment company, office designers Stanley Felderman and Nancy Keating placed a commercial kitchen and employee cafeteria adjacent to the lobby.

“For employees, it’s one of their favorite places to meet,” Felderman says. “It’s been so successful, they’ve had to triple the capacity” and are expanding seating to another floor.

Small businesses and companies with limited budgets can create dining spaces that encourage collaboration and make employees feel good about being at work. At the very least, set aside space for a microwave, toaster oven and refrigerator, Felderman and Keating say.

To make the space more flexible, use square or rectangular tables that can be pushed together for meetings. Add some high tables and chairs to increase the fun factor. Invest in a high-quality coffee maker that makes cappuccinos and other fancy drinks.

“I can’t tell you how often they’re used, and what return they get on spending money on it,” Felderman says. “Gone are the days of the Pyrex coffee pot.”

Here’s a look inside some of the Orange County company’s kitchens:

Hospitality Evolution, San Clemente

The 60-person hotel management company has broken up of Tarsadia Hotels in 2011 and moved to its current headquarters 10 minutes from downtown San Clemente a year later. The company’s kitchen — called the Break Room — opens into a living room with a ping-pong table and three TVs tuned to the Surf Network.

Office Manager Mallory Murphy is responsible for the food served at regular staff meetings, which are held on the second Friday of every month. Murphy hires local caterers to prepare taco bars, sandwich plates, pizza and other foods.

She also keeps the kitchen stocked with nuts, dried fruits, and other healthy snacks, prepares cucumber-lime spa water and batches of agua fresca every day, and consults Pinterest for ideas. “When it’s lunch time, Evolution Kitchen is the place to hang out and enjoy a relaxing break before embarking on the rest of the afternoon,” says Murphy.

Zomasis, Irvin

Zumasys CEO Paul Giobbi says he spent “a ton of money” making sure the business software company’s headquarters represented its modern, fun style. Its goals are to convince customers and motivate employees. The kitchen space is used for the company’s Monday breakfasts, and has doors that slide open to provide additional seating for holidays and special events.

“We really love this space,” says Yvette Castro, marketing director at Zumasys. “We decorate it for the holidays, and every New Year we get together in the kitchen and Paul makes a toast.”

Zumasys employees are periodically polled about their beverage preferences, and the kitchen is stocked accordingly with coconut water, juice, Gatorade, beer and wine after hours. The company recently committed to not using plastic water bottles, so all 45 Orange County employees received a Zumasys-logoed water cup, which they can fill from the filtered hot and cold water dispenser in the kitchen.

The company offers lunches several times a month. “We’re going to convert the parking lot” into an outdoor dining area, Gebby says. “We eat and share meals all the time, and the office is designed to support that.”

Mission Flavors & Fragrances, Inc., Foothill Ranch

It is appropriate for a company in the flavoring business to feed its employees.

Mission Flavors founder Patrick Imburgia, a flavor chemist, and Paul Loscutoff, vice president of sales and marketing, have hosted Friday brunches for more than 15 of the 28 years since the company was founded. Loscutoff cooks with the help of his wife, Heather, who is not an employee but works on Fridays and prepares desserts.

The kitchen in the 25-person company includes an oven, stove, microwave and grill. It’s adjacent to the company’s research and development lab, which can help explain the creativity and experimentation that goes into employee meals. Loskutoff’s lunches include roast chicken, meatloaf, soup, spaghetti, tri-tip, or other entrees, accompanied by salad, mixed vegetables, a rice dish, or baked potatoes.

“It’s a great advantage,” Imburgia says. “Everyone loves it. It’s great for morale.”

Online Trading Academy, Irvine

The stock trading training program operates 32 franchise locations around the world, all of which have kitchens where employees and students receive free breakfast, lunch, drinks and snacks. The company’s headquarters and main training facility share a building in Irvine, but maintain separate kitchens.

The corporate side feeds 80 people a day and the training center has between 30 and 60 people, depending on the number of classes running, according to Lisa Tashjian, the company’s director of training and development.

Free meals have been a feature since the company was founded in 1997. Menus range from Israeli to vegetarian, and come from OC caterers like 24 Carrots, B-Shool and Native Foods.

It is a company standard “to treat our employees and students at home, and to show that they are always welcome here,” Tashjian says.

Michelle F. Rafter specializes in covering jobs and employment issues. Send her your questions about job searching, careers, or workplace issues at or find her on Twitter: @MichelleRafter.

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