Google’s free-food cafeterias: Company pushes workers away from meat

OK, Google, where’s the beef?

Slowly, steadily and stealthily, Google has been slipping more and more mushrooms into burgers it serves to workers, while cutting back on the meat.

That’s according to a new report on worker-feeding habits at the Mountain View tech giant, whose famously free employee cafeterias offer a multitude of cuisines in upscale food court style.

“Google has slowly increased the percentage of mushrooms in the patty from 20 percent to 50 percent,” said a Fast Company report, referring to the “blended” burger, which falls into the menu group Google calls “flipped” – vegetable-heavy takes on traditional meat dishes.

The surreptitious substitution in the burgers is part of a broader effort to fill Googlers’ bellies with more plant-based foods and less meat, according to the report.

“You can’t expect everyone to start loving lentils day one,” Scott Giambastiani, Google’s global food program chef, told Fast Company.

“It’s moving people along a continuum, whether people are eating red meat every day and you ask them to start eating a little more white meat, or they’re already on a white meat kick and it’s a little bit more seafood, or moving even further along to alternative proteins or produce.”

When Fast Company visited 14 Google cafeteria food stations, it found that each one “subtly nudges diners to make one choice in particular: eat less meat.”

Those nudges included listing a vegan burger first on a daily menu, putting the vegetable-broth choice for Vietnamese pho soup ahead of the meat broth, and offering up a prototype vegan taco that’s in the running as a possible “power dish” to sway even the most dedicated carnivore, according to the magazine.

The push toward plant foods fits with the firm’s sustainability goals, Fast Company reported. With livestock, dairy and egg farming contributing to global carbon emissions, Google “recognizes that meat consumption is also an important part of its carbon footprint.”

Last year, Google reported that its program for buying “imperfect” fruits and vegetables that would have otherwise gone to waste saved more than 300,000 pounds of produce from trash cans and compost bins (or possibly from being hurled by angry protesters at Google’s commuter buses, but that’s another story).

Google has brought in specialized “food waste tracking terminals” equipped with food scales, to cut down on waste.

“In 2015, Google cafés in the Bay Area saved 440,540 pounds of food from going to waste, through a combination of using less, re-purposing leftovers, and donating unused inventory,” the company said in its 2016 environmental report. “So far in 2016, that figure is more than 1 million pounds of food.”

Of course, the firm’s moves on food are not only good for the environment and workers’ health, but helpful to the bottom line at a company that pays to feed tens of thousands of workers — wasted food costs money, and plant-based foods tend to be substantially cheaper than meat-based dishes.


Photo: Employee cafeteria at Google in Mountain View in 2005 (Rick Martin/Bay Area News Group) 


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  • gippatel

    Google is inherently evil. Pushing for even more mind control, even over the eating habits of their minions.

  • 3…2…1…

    Oh my, hope it was worth it. When do controlled submission of stools begin?

  • Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.

  • menloman

    Eventually the employees will be weened away from their employment too…for the good of the company.

  • Reed More

    What happens when the employee is allergic to mushrooms or lentils?

    It’s one thing for an employer to incentivize employees to participate in a program, but “surreptitious substitution” sounds rather dubious.

    • Beatrice Allende

      Indeed! Quite scary to those of us who have serious food allergies!

      • RoadWarrior

        Gout sufferers are told lentil is one of the foods to avoid.

        • Beatrice Allende

          I love lentils, but something I love EVEN MORE than I love lentils is knowing what I’m eating. What do I love even MORE than knowing what I’m eating? Not having an anaphylactic response to something I am eating. Today is not a good day to die.

  • Jamie K.

    As a product manager, we would create product intended for market-researched use cases. Then, our customers would find some completely different use case that drove significant revenue. In any case, I suspect that Google’s employee base has shifted toward a higher percentage of vegetarians (whether religious, cultural, or trend), and are merely marketing it as what Google food program intended all along…

  • Alex

    Veggies are healthy. Arguments regarding environmental impact, as stated in the article, are not settled.

    The human brain needs cholesterol. The human body needs fat. Vegetable-only diets are not “natural” for humans. In fact, it wasn’t until the introduction of cooking and regular intake of meat that our brains were able to grow into what we now identify as a “human” brain.

    • 3…2…1…

      I can spot a vegan 20′ away, light hits their skin and the oddest macerated presentation becomes immediately apparent. An opacity, like they are wearing one of those latex products that are sold from rusty boxes over gas station toilets, half way to Needles.

      • RoadWarrior

        We have a chain of grocery stores in NC named Earth Fare. It attracts a liberal clientele. You know the kind of stores than don’t use plastic bags and everything is “organic”. Half the customers must be vegetarians. They look pale, sickly and anorexic. Just not very healthy looking.

        • 3…2…1…

          One of the clerks at my local market joke about the vegan who’s image is almost absent in group photos.

        • a reader

          Ironically, looking thin and “sickly” is actually more healthy for your heart than if you are big and large. I’m not making it up. High end cardiologist, Dr. Esselstyn says so. So does Dr. Ornish. They have both done extensive studies on it.

  • Jim

    Remind me not to eat in the Google cafeteria, and I could. I’m allergic to mushrooms and I like hamburgers. How insensitive can you get? Did they bother to LIST THE INGREDIENTS? I guess free stuff is exempt.

  • RoadWarrior

    I just googled the human teeth. It said your teeth is designed for meat eating. When a man become a vegetarian like Colin Kaerpernick did, you lose muscle mass and strength. Not good for a running quarterback. All you Californians remember Bill Walton, basketball great at UCLA. He did fine his first few years in the NBA before he became a vegan. He then lost tons of weight, looked like a toothpick and injuries mounted.

    • Guy LeDouche

      Plus…if we are not supposed to eat animals…why are they made out of meat?

  • charlie hustle

    psst! google is very quietly manipulating the entire world!

  • fear_and_loathing _in_CA


    Google really is the modern day version of the coal mine. Company store and all.

  • Mike Smith

    I agree veggies are good.

    But employers manipulating or controlling my diet? Not good.

    In fact, I’d place it pretty close to evil.

  • Mike Smith

    I agree veggies are good.

    But employers manipulating or controlling my diet? Not good.

    In fact, I’d place it pretty close to evil.

  • Mood_Indigo

    Cue in an orchestra of protest from folks who will likely never have a chance to work at Google….

  • Xcalifornian

    Google is creating Eloi…the food for the Morlocks in the Time Machine…they are tastier if they
    don’t eat meat themselves…then Google consumes them as a prelude to consuming the
    rest of the world.

  • Brad R Dezirt

    I’ll stick with burgers and beer.

  • John R. Grout

    This isn’t about saving money… it’s about saving the @#!@ing planet.

    Megalomaniac presidents and messianic corporate leaders aren’t all that different.

  • Guy LeDouche

    LOL. Why no just stop serving burgers? Why the subterfuge?

  • Dadgum

    Yummy. Tofu bacon.

  • mattack

    > plant-based foods tend to be substantially cheaper than meat-based dishes.

    at the end consumer level? At least in grocery stores, the fake burger products are WAY more expensive than hamburger.