The Company Kitchen as a Mirror of Corporate Culture

An open and well-planned café invites more than coffee pours. It can be a nexus of spontaneous and meaningful employee interaction.

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By Mitch Kroll

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The atmosphere here is filled with an energetic, positive vibe: stylish café tables: fresh gourmet coffee and tea, the sound of jazz or hip-hop under the buzz of conversation. It's filled with an energetic, positive vibe.

If this seems like a favorite neighborhood coffee shop, that's not by mistake. At my company, Findaway World, a café is at the center of the office and the first thing one sees when walking in the door. It's an introduction to the company's culture: colorful and pulsing with activity. The company café is where members of the team, partners and guests intersect by chance or come to collaborate.

Related: How to Create a Productive Office Space

The company worked to make a statement in the design of the café. As a result, it's alive, welcoming and never empty and part of what earned the firm a "Midwest meets Silicon Valley" label.

This experience has demonstrated a great deal about the role that a company kitchen plays in any office: It's about so much more than where to take a coffee break.

Related: 7 Ways to Craft a Great Company Culture on a Budget

Beyond bagels. Having a communal area for a team to relax, refresh a beverage or grab a mid-day snack is no doubt important. But its suitability for food consumption should be only part of the attraction.

An open and well-planned kitchen area facilitates more than just how employees eat. It can be a nexus for the nourishing of corporate culture.

And the eating area can be the ideal setting for impromptu conversations and unexpected exchanges. Maybe no one really plans to meet there, but if two people arrive at the same time to pour a cup of coffee, why shouldn't they sit down and catch up for a few? The kitchen can bring new meaning to the notion of watercooler chatter.

Related: The Science of Office Design

Bye-bye, silos. An open kitchen space can naturally break down silos within an organization. When people from different project teams or departments come together in casual conversation, divisions blur without anyone thinking about it.

The design of a kitchen can also encourage boundaries of hierarchy to dissolve and staffers to engage naturally. A member of the production crew and the CFO could easily converse about favorite TV shows or families -- without having the chance to be intimidated by the interaction. Their engagement not only builds rapport but also allows them to get to know one another organically.

Staff interaction in a creative environment can contribute to fresh thinking. Bumping into colleagues leads to questions and collaboration, which in turn can foster the birth of new ideas. Like great meals, good ideas come together more quickly in a group.

Related: How Good Meals and Goodwill Lead to Good Business

Kitchen as culture. The kitchen-as-hub layout also says something about a company's physical environment, making a statement about the business itself. In a world where startup competition is fierce, the visual environment and office presentation count.

It's not easy to design a company kitchen in such an expansive way, but it's worth it. For a business that wants to convey its values in its environment, a community kitchen can be a centerpiece. It can show that the company cares about collaboration, creativity and communication, and it conveys a taste of the passion and pride that people likely pour into their work every day.

Related: How to Make Your Second Office Not Feel Like a Neglected Stepchild

Mitch Kroll
Mitch Kroll is co-founder and CEO of Findaway World, a provider of technology for the delivery of digital audiobook and ebook content.

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