The cafeteria at the Facebook main campus in Menlo Park, California.
ROBYN BECK/Getty Images

Not offering food perks is pretty unheard of in the tech industry. 

Mike Pomranz
July 24, 2018

In the competitive fight for top-tier tech talent, some of the biggest names in the industry upped their appeal by adding one of the oldest perks in the book: free food. For instance, Google is known for offering free meals, snacks, and beverages—apparently with the hope that employees won’t feel the need to leave the office. But at least one major Bay Area tech hub feels that encouraging workers to stay on campus at all times is detrimental to the community at large: So when Facebook opens its new offices in Mountain View, the social media giant will be forbidden from offering free meals, thanks to a city ordinance quietly passed a few years ago. 

Back in 2014, when the Mountain View city council was approving the development plan for Facebook's new digs (also known as the Village at San Antonio Center), members added a condition that any tenants of the offices would be prohibited from providing free meal or subsidizing the pricing at any in-house cafeteria by more than 50 percent, according to the Mountain View Voice. Thought the project was originally intended for LinkedIn, who backed out after securing space elsewhere, Facebook will apparently be beholden to similar restrictions when the company moves in this year.

Local officials openly stated that the point of the rule is to help support local business, especially restaurants and other food merchants. “It really was geared more around trying to make sure we didn’t have 400,000 square feet of office space with people that never left the building,” Michael Kasperzak, a former Mountain View mayor who was involved with the ordinance, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “If we have all these restaurants, we want this to be a successful development. If employers pay for it, that’s fine.”

Interestingly enough, since the ordinance was only applied to this specific location, the many other tech companies in the area currently don’t face similar restrictions. However, the Chronicle does speculate that the city could impose similar rules when Google goes through with its next planned expansion. Still, we’ve seen how important food can be as a bargaining chip when seeking out new employees: Is it possible restrictions on food could become a make or break issue when companies decide where to relocate?