Cafeteria protectionism

When Facebook moves into its new offices in Mountain View this fall, a signature Silicon Valley perk will be missing — there won’t be a corporate cafeteria with free food for about 2,000 employees.

In an unusual move, the city barred companies from fully subsidizing meals inside the offices, which are part of the Village at San Antonio Center project, in an effort to promote nearby retailers. The project-specific requirement passed in 2014, attracting little notice because the offices were years away from opening.

It came in response to local restaurants that said Google, the city’s biggest employer, was hurting their businesses by providing free meals, according to John McAlister, a Mountain View councilman.

Here is the story, via Anecdotal.  I spent two days once eating the food at Menlo Park Facebook, and thought it was quite good.


The last shall be first, and the first shall be last...

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I gather that the Center itself will have restaurants from what I can tell from the site online, so it looks like to me that the only restaurants that are going to benefit from the ordinance are the new ones inside the center. I bring this up because of the following bit from the article, and keep in mind that the man mentioned in the quote below was the Mountain View mayor who pushed the ordinance in the first place:

After leaving office, Kasperzak went on to work as a consultant for WeWork, the large New York operator of co-working spaces. Though Facebook is the sole tenant for now, WeWork is managing Facebook’s facility and is considering a public food hall in the ground floor, according to city officials.

Nice work if you can get it, I imagine.

Isn't WeWork the place that is banning meat from its facilities?

Next they will require that any employees leaving the premises to get meat-containing lunches stay 50 feet from the building while eating, to prevent vegetarians from catching a whiff of bacon.

Do you respect Howard Stern’s penis?

Do you have the courage to sexually harass people in the real world?

Of course you don't. You are mentally ill.

Get help.

If you live in the United States or Canada, free help for sexually harassing eunuchs like you is fairly easy to find. IF you are in the Philippines or Brazil, you probably need to have someone help you find help.

But please find help. You are disgusting, boring, and you waste people's time.

awful quiet all of a sudden, aren't you, Marfan harasser dude?

Get help. Everybody ignores you except people like me who know that pinheads like you are not unsalvageable.

But do you respect Howard Stern’s penis?

poor ugly little dude/dudette, you can't hurt my feelings, but you can disappoint me.

my best advice is find a mate - hang out with him or her - and after a while, ask said mate if you are spending your time well.

look, even if you are grotesque looking, that is no impediment to finding someone who cares about you.

if finding a mate is too much for you, try prayer. For example, I pray to God every day for people like you.

and no, I do not think about Howard Stern much. He has never been impolite to me personally, perhaps because he knows what I know, even if he is afraid to talk about it.

God bless you, my poor little friend. You will die some day, and on that day, you will know that I prayed for your conversion, for your resurrection from the sewers of stupidity and ignorance.

You may have the last word here: I will not read it. you have been pawned, dude/dudette: but some day in the future you will be a better person!

Good luck!

Did Facebook challenge the ban? Did Facebook negotiate the ban? Don't Facebook employees have the right of assembly? This seems so . . . . fabricated. I previously mentioned that colleagues in China don't assemble at the same place for lunch, and speculated that it might relate to concerns about surveillance. Do employees at Facebook have similar concerns? There is something odd about an employer providing meals for its employees. Odder still is that Facebook and Google intend to provide housing for employees. I suppose that makes surveillance easier.

Yeah, it also seems fabricated to me. Awfully convenient that Facebook no longer needs to pay for meals (and can even charge rent instead) while blaming the city.

Meals for employees can be deductible by the business if they contribute to people spending less time away from work; housing cannot. It is not surprising that companies provide meals for the same reason that they provide health insurance. (However, the IRS has previously indicated, with good reason, that it may look askance at tech companies whose free food is "too good," transforming it from a business necessity to a fringe benefit.)

>ontribute to people spending less time away from work;

I thought the standard was quite a bit higher, closer to a claim of necessity e.g., to maintain 24x7 staffing.

If otherwise, anything could be justified via a just-so story about how the work place more efficient.

Not too odd.

I once knew a man who was CEO of a company that provided lunch. His explanation of the benefits was:

1. It fostered communication across organizational lines.
2. It tended to reduce the time employees spent at lunch.
3. It prevented drinking.

Do you respect Howard Stern’s penis?

more proof that America is a third world country. lunch in the office in a cafeteria, granted, better than lunch at your desk while you work is bad. case in point, look at hospitals. it is a way to make work synchronous with life when we all know it is not. it is a façade. like google doesn't have a bonus ponzi scheme. moreover it is monopolistic seeking behavior. Trump is on my page. "The Amazon Washington Post has gone crazy against me ever since they lost the Internet Tax Case in the U.S. Supreme Court two months ago. Next up is the U.S. Post Office which they use, at a fraction of real cost, as their “delivery boy” for a BIG percentage of their packages...." FB is next.

"There is something odd about an employer providing meals for its employees." Eh? Common habit in some countries, or at least it was.

It use to almost universal in the UK when taxes were so high. Large firms even had different classes of dining facilities for different level of management and non-management employees.

Small firms would give vouchers for meals at local pubs.

I don't know if these practices are still in place. But they were
standard tax avoidance techniques. Employees paid
pre-tax pounds for their meals.

Indeed, there was a cafeteria on Are You Being Served, where they all ate together.

Yes, that's true. I remember temping in a few large department stores when young, and they often had "staff canteens" which would prepare food.

They've probably all gone now though.

Is Facebook raising salaries to compensate employees?

"There is something odd about an employer providing meals for its employees. Odder still is that Facebook and Google intend to provide housing for employees."

Not really. Subsidised canteens and company towns were once things. Given the apparent costs of being in San Fran or London, the only surprise is that they haven't done it already.

How nearby are these retailers? The Googleplex is 3.1 million square feet. Just getting out to your car (assuming your drove to work) seems like it could take up a good chunk of your lunch hour.

That's probably the annoying thing. No work cafeteria in New York? Just walk half a block to a million places.

No work cafeteria in the suburbs? Good luck getting anywhere. And they say urbanism is social engineering!

I've never worked at Google, but I visited once, and their cafeteria is excellent. I wonder if Google could compete running for-profit public cafeterias. I suspect that's not their passion and while the food quality is very competitive, I suspect it's not cost efficient, and people wouldn't be willing to pay what it costs.

Google campuses struck me as almost running a city. They have innovative ideas on food, space, transportation. I hope they expand and eventually run Google cities that compete to attract residents.

That's pretty much what Google is doing in Toronto. See

"Google campuses struck me as almost running a city."

This is nothing new. Many 20th century factories were small cities with innovative solutions for the time.

Company towns are also an innovation solution, although restrictive in terms of choices. Everyone could walk to work, buy meals on company credit, etc. There were abuses by employers but also large cost savings.

Pullman, Illinois, not too far from where I live, is an example.

Privatization of public spaces is a rational response to the increasing chaos and unpredictability of public spaces. Tort law already places the onus for security on the landowner as opposed to the government, and crime in the environs is enough to trigger this duty. So it makes sense just to give the landowners the public space and have them administer it as well.

Apropos to the conversation yesterday, "company towns" will probably make a comeback.

"Google campuses struck me as almost running a city."
Alternatively, one might characterize them as almost like running a campus, in which event a lot of these issues start to look familiar.

It's clearly heresy to say, but why would anyone think that Google could run restaurants more efficiently than the millions of people who have already optimized their own restaurant operations? Disruption FTW?

For an entertaining look at the restaurant business: Restaurant Man by Joe Bastianich (

Amazon’s new campus in Seattle is similar where it is allowing local business to establish themselves outside of the building in an attempt to assist the community. I can’t speak to whether or not “free” meals are offered, but I do know the company’s new campus is filled with local offerings on its ground floors.

Amazon is sort of the opposite situation. They require that most restaurants in their buildings stay open for dinner and on weekends even though the neighborhood is a ghost town after happy hour ends. So far that policy has resulted in a lot of high-profile restaurants opening up to much fanfare and promptly shutting down a year later.

Amazon is well known for NOT having free lunch or the amenities typical of Facebook, Google, etc.

Yea, I hear the only thing on offer are two pizzas.

checkmate Sean P. (awful commenter name bro). It was a good game tho.

When I worked there at the time the 2-pizza team concept was introduced, I was told that the pizzas are just theoretical. The maximum allowable team size should be such that 2 pizzas would be enough for lunch. However, that doesn't mean that Amazon would be buying 2 pizzas for any team at any point in time, ever.

In my experience, Amazon employees get their salary, their stock, some form of health insurance, and not a single penny more. You even have to pay for parking. You want to be coddled ? Work somewhere else.

SF is considering this now too:

I've worked for Google, and now at a different tech company that also offers free meals. TBH I've always been a bit skeptical of it as a perk, but government action to ban it is pretty dumb, and probably also easy to work around.

Why not ban home-cooked meals? Soon an article out of California might read:
"In an unusual move, the city barred residents from cooking full meals inside their homes, in an effort to promote nearby restaurants. It came in response to local restaurants that said home-cooked meals were hurting their businesses."

Silly, you can cook at home; you just have average 40 hours a week and make $30K / year from it.

Somebody birthed the free lunch ... but the rent seekers strangled it in the cradle. Funny.


We have a winner.

This is what economic literacy has come to. I suppose you think this makes you a nerd. That you are proud. Really this makes you irrelevant. Perhaps only I did not understand the joke.

Tyler knew the food would be good before he set foot in the cafeteria.

Judging solely by the # of attractive women who work at Facebook!

Thread winner.

I was just there. That's no lie.

Ugh. So SF requires workers to waste their time walking or driving to get to lunch in order to promote local businesses. Next they will ban home-cooked meals.

This should probably be challenged under St. Joseph's Abbey vs. Castille, the ruling which took down New Orleans licensing regime regarding casket manufacture. There the court stated that regulation could not be imposed for the explicit purpose of "economic protectionism" - i.e. you can't say upfront that you're doing it explicitly for the purpose of helping local businesses. You have to have something like a public health interest. If that ruling holds it should doom this regulation.

Mountain View, not SF

Do you respect Howard Stern’s penis?

The food trucks are a cafeteria

But then there's Wickard v. Filburn. Home-cooked meals reduce the demand for eating out. Hence, to support the incomes of struggling restaurants (insert picture of a mom-and-pop eatery that sources its produce from a local family farm), home-cooked meals must be banned. What kind of monster are you that hates mom-and-pop restaurants?

Wickard v. Filburn is so ready to be overturned.

insert picture of a mom-and-pop eatery that sources its produce from a local family farm

You mean like a farm-to-table restaurant? How does a restaurant raising its own chickens not reduce demand for chickens in interstate markets?

Facebook should offer all-you-can-eat meals for one cent.

Right? Or at least like $1.00 or something like that.

Apparently they already thought of that: "prohibited from providing free daily meals to employees, or subsidizing more than half the price at any in-house cafeteria."

Perhaps the city should also forbid brown-bagging, by (1) require all visitors and employees' bags be searched for food or drink when entering the facility, and (2) forbid employer from providing refrigerators or microwaves which might be used to prepare such food.

Perhaps with exceptions for food that can be shown (receipt required) to have been recently purchased as take-out from local vendors.

And yes, this is obnoxious, as the employer presumably has (or thinks they have) legitimate business purposes in providing the free food. Such as (for example) encouraging employees to stay late to get their work done.

Tech companies spend a lot on tax attorneys and double Dutch sandwiches. Couldn't they cook up some sort of fully-owned subsidiary scheme in which a subsidiary cafeteria operator has artificially low costs on paper and the parent company eats the losses?

You want to suck my dick?

The City Council should have required that


Serve disgustingly bad cafeteria food

Or that it be catered by the local school district.

It's probably better for company culture in the long run.

This ethic of "every waking hour belongs to the employer, who periodically dribbles out free stuff in return" seems tailor made to produce a culture of entitlement ("I'm working for this!") and status anxiety ("Bob gets more free stuff than I do!").

"The competition is eating our lunch!"

The competition is eating my asshole out.

Model the Democratic Party.

They maximize virtue, not material well-being.

How the heck does this maximize virtue?
This is just straight up corruption - local economic interests utilizing the levers of govetnment to force people to patronize them.
The role of the Democratic Party is in creating a system that allows this to occur, not in virtue signalling.

“I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

-President Obama

Wealth is not earned or accrued by risky investments. It’s mana from heaven or luck (Prof Frank, Cornell) or genes (today’s op-ed in NYT).

“You didn’t build that.”


Well, in that case, the virtue "signal" is just a mask for straight-up avarice, not actual virtue.

Much like the virtue "signal" in your tone is a mask for a hip-hop obsession.

I should clarify, it maximizes what the party believes to be virtuous, aka helping local businesses.

But isn't helping the struggling technological proletariat get fed equally if not more virtuous?

US tax law is weird. In my country, perks like employer provided lunch are taxable, except if there is an express business purpose such as a training or clients are entertained. On the other hand, company car taxation exists but is very advantageous here, to subsidize our automakers. In any case, if you don't tax perks, companies will use the loophole best they can.

Intuit has a big campus right next to Google, also on the bad side of 101. Intuit never had free food, but there are lots of cafeterias, with food that is ok, not great, and not expensive. Either place, getting to off-campus food is a lot of trouble. But only Google has the laundry rooms, no quarters needed, indeed even the soap and fabric softener are free. But the best is the umbrellas. On a rainy day, thousands of identical, (heavy, with wooden frames) big lime green umbrellas with a minor google logo, appear, and the vision of them moving between buildings is actually very artistic and thrilling. Cities should have umbrella color days -- say red if it rains on Monday, blue on Tues, lavender on Wed, the lime green one day, just for the beautiful spectacle.

Does Facebook provide free parking lots for employees? Have any owners of private parking lots complained that this reduces their incomes?

I hope that if they are providing free parking, it's at least considered a taxable benefit. Better to raise the salaries and let the workers decide whether they'd prefer to drive or take transit.
Same with meals. The government has no business subsidizing Google/Google employees.

Speaking of free lunches, next year's deficit is supposed to be about $1 trillion thanks to the Trump-Republican tax cut. And today Trump announced the first phase to bail out the industries that are being hurt by Trump's economic plan. Yesterday Trump complained that the Fed wouldn't sprinkle magic dust on his economic plan of sky high deficits. The alarm here at MR has been deafening.


You leftists did not care about deficits until Trump. Prior to him, it was justified spending on infrastructure.

As it happens, I’m against deficits. And the amount worries me. But I’m willing to bite my tongue because Trump won the election and there are consequences, ... Trump getting a few years to call the economic shots. Also you know he’s not really a Republican right? I know you and your ilk call him a tyrant, a Hitler and a dictator but really he’s a loudmouth nationalist Democrat.

A right to literacy is not a marginal revolution law, unlike travel, which laws have gone unstated on marginal revolution.

The petition by the local restaurants resembles Bastiat's candlemaker's petition.

Corporations have long offered cheap cafeterias to keep employees close to the office during work hours. As with many things, Facebook and Google did not invent this. In Hartford, CT, Travelers and Aetna, at opposite sides of downtown, had generous cafeterias... and over the years downtown Hartford became a Potemkin city. The cafeterias were hardly the only reason, but they kept thousands of downtown workers out of downtown every day.

When it comes to regulating commerce, local and state governments appear to be able to do anything, facing only apathy from the business financial classes.

Property zoning, occupational licensing, and micro rules such as who cannot have a cafeteria, or rules against push-cart vending.

In general, all these transgressions against free commerce are accepted if they benefit the upper classes.

True, and where do local governments get the authority to micromanage local private businesses that are not imposing an externality (traffic, utility demand,...) or violating State or Federal law? Besides the food is not really "free" to employees.

"Abe-Koga said the concept of tech companies offering free food was uncommon 20 years ago, and cities were in favor of companies in business parks having their own cafeterias because it reduced traffic."

File under #PrivilegeIsNotFalsifiable. When corporations don't have cafeterias, then they are making traffic worse for local residents (and probably "bidding up" restaurant prices, making them unaffordable). When corporations do have cafeterias, then they are depriving local restaurants of customers. I am also reminded of Krauthammer's joke that a progressive is someone who doesn't care what you do as long as it's mandatory.

" I spent two days once eating the food at Menlo Park Facebook, and thought it was quite good."

This probably doesn't mean 48 hours once eating food at Menlo Park Facebook, but then again we are talking about Tyler's favorite hobby...

They provide lunch for the same reason law firms provide gyms. It's because they expect you to spend so much time at work that you don't have time to go outside the office for ______.

So it's like the equivalent of the mandatory union smoke break?

Does it have something to do with sales taxes? Had similar problem in Illinois.

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