Hall Of Fame

Food For Thought

"Lunch room" takes on a whole new meaning.

By G. David Doran

Asked to picture a typical office setting, most people envision Dilbertesque cubicles occupied by isolated souls.

In contrast, the offices of Mitchell & Co., a Toledo, Ohio, marketing agency, are anything but typical. An airy, loft-like space built around a fully equipped kitchen, Mitchell's "wall-less" office is designed to bring employees together.

While a kitchen-centric office may not be right for, say, an insurance agency, marketing is a creative business, says president Mark Mitchell, and this kind of setup is just right for unstructured, collaborative efforts like brainstorming sessions. "I want to make sure we aren't [using] solutions from last week," he says, "so I use the kitchen to stimulate people to think differently. And that extends into how we solve problems for clients."

There's no leftover tuna casserole on the menu in Mitchell's kitchen--the firm has three people on staff (including Mitchell himself) who double as master chefs when they're not cooking up marketing campaigns for clients like GenFlex Roofing Systems and Owens Corning.

Although Mitchell hasn't conducted a detailed study of his employee turnover rate during the 12 years that Mitchell & Co. has occupied this unique work space, he believes the kitchen and the company culture it represents have helped slow his company's brain drain. "It's hard to find and keep talented people," says Mitchell. "Money isn't the main motivating issue anymore. If I can provide a great environment where people want to come to work and feel that they're part of something, it makes it much easier to attract and keep talent." Besides, who can resist the smell of brownies baking in the oven?

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This article was originally published in the November 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Hall Of Fame.

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