"We believe these companies are part of our community," says Mountain View Mayor Lenny Siegel. "A growing number of their employees live in our community, and we want them to be a part of our community."
Siegel, a Democrat, says that for years, restaurant owners have complained that employees of Google never come out to eat or shop. So when the city learned that Facebook would be opening a new office in the fall of 2018 at a building project known as the Village at San Antonio Center, the city passed a project-specific requirement that bars the company from providing free daily meals to employees at any in-house cafeteria. The company is also prevented from providing deeply discounted meals.
Along with the internal cafeterias, corporate catering companies have also come to rely on serving food to big tech companies.
Under the agreement between Mountain View and Facebook, meals within the Facebook offices can't be subsidized by more than 50 percent on a regular basis. However, the company can fully subsidize meals if employees go to restaurants that are open to the public. Mayor Siegel acknowledges there are still a few kinks that need to be smoothed out.
"Facebook is a global company and some of their people work in the middle of the night," Siegel says. "If all the restaurants are closed, maybe I would be open to considering food service in the middle of the night."
Facebook spokesperson Jamil Walker says the company is still working out the details of what this new arrangement will look like. "We found the location attractive because of its proximity to public transportation, housing and public-serving amenities like shops and restaurants," says Walker.
Siegel says Facebook has suggested ideas like turning the ground floor into a food court with local restaurants that are open to the public.
Erika Rasmussen, the manager of Milk Pail Market, an open-air grocery store next to the new building, is looking forward to figuring out the best way to serve the 2,000 employees expected to converge on the area when the new office opens. "We don't want Facebook to overwhelm this area, but we do want Facebook to support this area, because we will need their patronage to survive," Rasmussen says.
Deepak Rao, a tech employee at a startup in Silicon Valley, says perks aren't the defining reason he and his colleagues do the work that they do. But sometimes, he says, when you're working long hours, perks like free food, feel like a necessity.
"To go out and drive, eat whatever, that could take an hour and a half, which you might not have," says Rao. So for tech companies, it's been worth it to keep employees at work, for as long as they can stay, by providing food in-house. These new laws will change what's become a given in Silicon Valley work culture.