Inside The Secret World Of Free Food In Facebook, Twitter And Google's Dublin HQs
As you're probably all too aware employees at tech companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter have some wonderful perks – but the one that seems to grab all the attention is their free food.
It is the relatively secret world seen only by about 7,000 people every day of the week who are lucky enough to work in one of their offices, as well as those of an increasing amount of tech companies in the city such as Linkedin, Airbnb and Microsoft.
I wanted to give people a glimpse inside that world and ask what this all means to Dublin? Even though we don't get to see it all, it's still one of the biggest groups of people eating in the city...
How Good Is The Food?
While myself and yourself are mulling over the usual choices of shitty sandwiches and the same old salad from around the corner the guys in these tech companies have a huge choice.
While the usual salads, healthy options and sandwiches are there it is all about variety. Themed days are a huge part of the food offering with cuisines from all over the world embraced.
Talk to any of the employees in these companies and they'll tell you about the 15lbs they put on when they start working there; the free buffets, cans of Red Bull, cupcakes and endless sweets catch up on everybody.
The newbies pile their plates high as if walking into Willy Wonka's chocolate factory for the first time. Seasoned employees can be seen with small portions and using gyms more regularly than they tuck into the desserts.
The companies themselves don't throw the money around for the good of their health either; with amazing breakfasts on offer employees are likely to get there on time or even earlier than normal, and with dinner also served most people tend to work late. Takeaway dinners are even included in some of the offices.
By eliminating the need for people to think about shopping, cooking and eating, the logic is employees will work more and be more productive.
A Dublin Company Focusing On Health
Unlike in California, where many of the tech companies hire their own chefs, there is an Irish company behind the food in Facebook and Twitter. Urban Picnic has been with Facebook since the early days, and has grown into a large supplier that also counts Airbnb and some of the other biggest companies in Dublin among its clients.
While the treats are obviously a key element, all the menus feature healthy foods – and their Facebook page and social feeds show that variety is a huge part of what they do.
How Does It Affect Dublin Businesses?
While having thousands of employees in these buildings is often lauded as being brilliant for Ireland, how does it really affect Dublin businesses?
Shouldn't all those employees be out eating in local cafes and restaurants? I asked Colin Harmon who runs the local coffee shop 3fe, slap bang in the middle of these tech companies.
I think because we're right bang in the middle of the tech hub on Grand Canal Street we see a very wide and varied customer base from all over the world. Traditionally Dubliners would socialise and even do business in pubs and bars, but that's all changing now. I think it was happening anyway but there's now tens of thousands of people who have moved to the city that are pushing the cafe to be the new epicentre for all things social and business.
I was talking to someone recently about all the deals that were done in places like the Horseshoe Bar and Doheny and Nesbitts over the years in Dublin, and how the pint was an essential part of striking a deal. But when I walk through 3fe on a busy day, it's great to see so many entrepreneurs, startups, directors and creatives drinking coffee and finding ways to work together.
I like to think that in years to come 3fe will be seen as the Horseshoe bar of our generation.
There's a real shift in the social landscape in Ireland with so many international influences and I only see this as a good thing. We'll always like a drink here, and I'm no different to the next guy, but it's great to have restaurants, cafes and other alcohol-free venues to act as that third place in our lives – and that's something that's driven by and appeals more to the new influx of people from all over the world.