Google cutting back on free-food perks?

A rumor on gossip blog Valleywag says that Google will soon stop offering free meals and snacks to employees. If it's true, it's a big deal.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
2 min read

Blame the mounting economic pressures, or too many chubby engineers: Google has decided to stop offering free dinner, afternoon snacks, and its "tea trolley" to employees, according to an unconfirmed rumor floated on Valleywag.

A Google representative did not immediately return my request for comment, so this one is still hanging around in the gossip-sphere. But Valleywag reported that the changes are slated to be announced Monday, which would mean that either a confirmation or debunking should be available within hours.

A chef prepares Google food, back in 2004. Google

Google has become renowned for its employee perks: massages, game rooms, gyms, laundry facilities, and free food three times a day. Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin went out on a limb in creating the free-food strategy, which they said was a worthwhile investment to make employees healthier, happier, and more efficient. The food's even good enough for Google's original head chef to have penned a cookbook.

Cutting perks always results in bad PR, something that Google learned the hard way when it shot the cost of day care for employees' kids into the stratosphere, for example. But cutting back on free food, one of Google's most visible and unique perks, may be over the top for some workers.

Critics of the perks have suggested, in addition to questioning the economic efficiency, that offering so much free food is really just a way to make Googlers spend more time at the office. Then there's the internal joke about the "Google 15" (or "Google 20" depending on who you ask), the rumored weight gain that happens after getting hired at Google and being surrounded by so much gratis grub.

Coincidentally, the gossip comes soon after the heavy blogging of a two-month-old Flickr photo that revealed Google's New York cafeteria serving bacon cheeseburgers on Krispy Kreme donuts as a novelty food. Hey, Googlers, maybe the rumored change is for your own good.

Still, this has not been confirmed, which means that it could easily turn out to be false, or perhaps overhyped (restricted to Google satellite offices, for example). But given the marketwide economic belt-tightening, it's not too hard to believe the rumor.