Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Price of Food at Work in Silicon Valley

Subsidized food is pretty popular here in the valley of computer chips. The goal is to provide somewhat cheaper food to employees as a perk of working at the business. It is not as reasonable as the cheap and tasty food I used to eat at the CityU canteen when I was an exchange student, but it is a similar idea in that the food is right there and it is low price. Google boasts free food all day for their employees. The up and coming Zynga (the start-up that brings you Mafia Wars and Farmville on Facebook) advertises on their job board free lunch and dinners. The Oracle 600 cafe has nine reviews on Yelp right now. Because the food is subsidized by the company, these types of corporate cafeterias (or canteens as HKers say) have delicious food for a very low price. I will have to follow up on Oracle food, but I am pretty sure an adventure over to their canteen is in the near future. That is because Oracle is only a 15 minute walk from the building where I work at EA (Electronic Arts). EA also has subsidized food but unfortunately it isn't free like at Google or Zynga but it is fairly low priced. I thought I would share a couple of the offerings I have had lately. Our cafe is really delicious, with about six or so entrees to choose from daily with an additional salad and soup bar, a sandwich bar and a pizza bar.

Here we have a lasagna set with a side salad and a side of grilled squash. (I hope Chef Javier doesn't mind me posting on his food creations). Note that the drink I have there did not come with the meal, so it wasn't a true "set meal" in the HK style sense. The lasagna was called "free form" lasagna where the chef would layer a noodle with Riccota cheese and your choice of sauce: fancy mushroom red sauce or a fancy meat based red sauce. The majority of the ingredients at the EA cafe are organic. This entree came to around 7.25 USD. The sodas on campus always cost 25 cents so we could say this meal was roughly 60HKD. For an almost entirely organic meal (ok I know the Diet Dr. P totally kills it) I would say you can't go wrong with that price. The lasagna was delicious and it was quite a reward after sitting in the San Mateo DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) for three hours waiting to get my California driver's license and plates for my car.

We also have soups and chili on a daily basis. Pictured here is tortilla soup and a side salad. I think this cost about 7.50 USD. I think that is a little too high for just soup and salad. A large bowl of soup or chili is 2.25 USD, so clearly it isn't the soup that is pricey. The salad bar is probably the most expensive thing you can eat at EA because it is priced by weight. My salad always ends up being pretty heavy because I pile on the organic beets and a little pasta salad. The salad container here is a small one but I have to exercise a lot of self-control to get it under 5 USD.

I think this post definitely deserves a follow up with my first trip over to the Oracle cafe. To be honest, I am not sure if it is open to the public, but I won't hesitate to post here considering there are reviews on Yelp already and my EA friends venture over every now and then. If you read the Yelp reviews, they even inform you on how to keep from "standing out". I think the Oracle employees probably dress like an average executive, and since I work at a game company, I never have to dress up, so I guess I will have to plan ahead so that I can sneak away some relatively cheap, delicious, corporate food. And besides, what the heck does Oracle do anyway?


  1. Hey Sarah, your lunch looks delicious^^ Furthermore, your "free form" lasagna is intriguing, if only because the concept is reminiscent of what we have in Hong Kong where I can choose what kind of animal or vegetable, in addition to a sauce, to put on top of my bow of rice or noodles.

    However, I don't think I would pay over $7 for lunch, even if the meal were subsidized - I rarely want to pay $7 for dinner if I'm eating alone. It seems a bit ironic to me that all of those soda calories cost only 25 cents to consume while the food calories, it seems, cost a lot more!

  2. hey. . . fun reading. . .
    can i contribute? =)

  3. I agree, it is too high. Hong Kong food prices are much lower and worth the money. I often bring food from home, so that cuts back on cost.