Google Closes Two More Cafés
Google's nerd-heaven Mountain View, Calif., campus is losing two more of its free-for-employees cafés this Friday when Jean-Claude Balek's Basic Deli, well-reviewed for its house-made charcuterie, and 5ive shut their doors.
"That's business," said Balek when Valleywag reached him by phone.
The reason for the closure: Google is subleasing an entire complex of offices. It has already laid off thousands of contractors, so it no longer needs the space. How sudden is this move? Basic Deli, which won raves from San Francisco Chronicle food critic Michael Bauer, had only been open a year. 5ive, the cafe where Googlers are eating in the clip above, has also proved popular.
The company already closed Off the Grid, one of the complex's three cafés which offer free food for Google workers, last October. Plymouth and Oasis, two cafés on the edge of Google's main campus, may be next, a source says.
Balek, a colorful chef who has the words "foie gras" tattooed on his knuckles, confirmed his café's closure. He's moving to another café on the Googleplex, and says that all of the kitchen staff — contract workers employed by Bon Appétit — have been placed.
That will be news to them: We hear that none of the Basic staff have yet learned whether they'll have jobs on Monday. They were promised word two days ago.
"That's a vendor issue," Balek explained before hurrying back to his kitchen.
The chef is being highly diplomatic here. Google has long sparred with Bon Appétit, squeezing the café operator to keep dishing up organic expensive fare at rock-bottom prices. The result of the infighting: Steady cutbacks on meals and hours served, culminating in this weeks' outright closure of cafés. A scandal forced out John Dickman, head of Google's food operations. (He landed briefly at Apple afterwards, but reportedly left in January.) Googlers, meanwhile, have treated the company's cooks, servers and dishwashers with the kind of dismissive disdain they usually reserve for media executives.
Under a new, well-paid CFO, Google is focusing intensely on costs. Patrick Pichette, Google's penny-pincher in chief, is preserving Google's profit margins. But at what cost to the culture? Free food is the legendary perk around which Google has built its reputation for treating employees well. You can't cut your cake and have it, too.