Microsoft’s Newest Corporate Cafe

See how Microsoft created a space that appeals to millennials who are smart, authentic, and hungry.

By GR Chair

Sadie II chair in corporate cafe.

When Microsoft decided to redesign their employee cafeteria, Cafe 36, located on their Redmond, Washington campus, they were dealing with an old, aging, cramped, and lackluster space. This was not the kind of space that would attract and keep the employees that Microsoft aims to employ. They wanted a space that would appeal to millennials who are smart, authentic, and more ways than one.

What they came up with is a space that was featured in FESmag of March 2017 as the “facility design of the month.” To recap Donna Boss’ article, the menu and space are extremely impressive. The menu is largely credited to Mark Freeman, Microsoft’s senior manager of Microsoft Global Dining Services. Freeman has been hailed as the visionary in incorporating cafe lifestyle in corporate cafeterias.

It’s the corporate cafe to beat all corporate cafes, and its expansive, worldly, colorful, with a  clean menu match. Nestled in the forests of Redmond, Washington, Microsoft’s Cafe 36 is definitely one of our favorite corporate cafeterias to date.

Brady barstools with yellow frame in corporate cafe.

The Food

Not your typical cafeteria food, the cuisine at Cafe 36 is inspired by the use of local, GMO and chemical-free cooking and promotes urban farming. Freeman’s strategies have been dubbed an “ingredient revolution.” The ingredients creating that revolution are included in the cafe’s four anchor stations: Himalaya, featuring Indian food; Dekotora, offering teriyaki and ramen; Bosque Burrito; and Veloce Pizza.

To source their fruit, Microsoft created a Misfit Produce Rescue where Dining at Microsoft buys more than 75,000 pounds of produce from local farms that, because of regulations, can’t be sold to grocery stores.

This variety of food and the innovative ways they buy and prepare it are reflective of the creativity of the space.

The Feel

Moving away from dark and cramped, Microsoft was eager to build a space that could bring the outside in, especially given the campus' lush and verdant surroundings. Floor-to-ceiling windows spread natural light across materials such as clear woods, polished concrete, and powder coated metal.

Our Sadie and Brady Chairs support this feel, lending a smidge of the industrial to a modern building. Both Sadie and Brady combine polished wood and metal—making them the perfect compliment to the “approachable industrial” vibe Microsoft was aiming for in their design.

Microsoft Cafe with Brady Barstools

The Efficiency

To make their sleek space work to its full potential, Cafe 36 boasts a number of efficient features that save time, space and create a green and welcoming environment. The cafe cuts back on lines and wait time for its employees by offering cashless, cashier-less payment systems with touch-screen order-and-pay kiosks.

They produce much of their own food on site, using a total of 55 hydroponic towers to produce nearly 15,000 pounds of greens annually on the Microsoft campus. Growing food on site and tracking its consumption using the latest data technology helps them cut back on waste and use their equipment efficiently. According to Freeman, "We're 92.8 percent zero waste in food service."

Microsoft was looking to include innovative brands to improve the ambiance in their new store, and Grand Rapids Chair was proud to include our Brady and Sadie Collection in an environment that is compelling, modern, and exciting.