Food is at the center of Google's corporate culture, a sign of the company's Pollyanna worldview and the outsized financial success which enables this largesse. So why is Google is closing a café? Off The Grid, one of Google's 18 in-house eateries at its headquarters, abruptly shut its doors this week. Employees are being told the cut is "temporary," but workers are removing the café's fixtures, which suggests a permanent closure. What this means: Despite CEO Eric Schmidt's protestations, Google is being hit by the recession. And the blows are harder than the company has admitted to shareholders or employees.Off The Grid's closure is the harbinger of more cuts, a source within Google's kitchens we've nicknamed "Deep Fried" tells us. The building, 2350 Bayshore, is also having its "micro kitchen" snack stations closed. A large number of workers in the building were contractors, Deep Fried says, some of whom are losing their temporary jobs at Google. The closure also leaves a large area of Google's campus without breakfast service. Food is just one area where Google is slashing costs; under recently hired CFO Patrick Pichette, Google has been having a series of meetings about eliminating expenses, and Googlers have been implementing the cuts with the same slapdash speed with which it rolls out new websites. Google executives gave food-service operator Bon Appétit sharp budget cuts this year, which has only worsened the already troubled relationship between the companies. Google eliminated dinner at one café earlier this year. But the closure of Off The Grid was sudden, coming after a meeting between Bon Appétit executives and Derek Rupp, the café's executive chef, Deep Fried writes:
The whole staff came into the cafe and sat before the corporate panel and we were told OTG would close, effective immediately. Bombshell. They had their menus for the week planned out, their pantries were fully stocked, everyone working at full tilt, and suddenly they were told it was all over. Nobody expected it. Derek was stunned - OTG was his baby. Some were crying. They were assured from corporate that if an alternative position could not be obtained within the Google account then Bon Apetit would move them to a nearby account. Oh and by the way some may be let go. If so, two weeks' paid severance.
Google has, to Deep Fried's knowledge, never closed a café on its main campus before. The food cuts could be a harbinger to further cost-cutting; Deep Fried has heard that the building might be put up for sublease. To date, Google has aggressively sought to expand its office space in Mountain View; a sublet, too, would be an all but unprecedented retrenchment. Other cuts are being made throughout Google. Glacéau SmartWater, once commonly stocked in Googleplex fridges, is gone, though that removal was spun as an environmental move to drop bottled drinks. Deep Fried observes:
I think we are doing a good job of keeping this from the Googlers. But should it really be kept from them? Shouldn't they know the real reason we don't have SmartWater is because we don't have the money for it? Shouldn't they know that even a powerhouse like Google is being hit? Maybe they would complain less.
Sunnily optimistic Googlers, convinced of their ability to better the world, complaining? Google has lost more than just a café. It has lost a bit of its innocence. (Photo by Jatbar.com)