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Nibble as you work

A wide range of foodstuff is now available at corporate cafeterias

Photo: K. Ramesh Babu

UNTIL FAIRLY recently, all that office canteens had on their menu was sambar rice, chai and samosa. Very few served chutney. Today cafeterias have morphed into swank eateries where one finds a delectable line up - pizzas, burgers, grilled sandwiches, muffins and tarts, cold coffee and what have you.

Antaryami Panda, 25, works for Dell and loves to nibble on a pan pizza as soon as he hits his grey cubicle. Thanks to the pizza corner in his office, he does not have to venture out in search of one.

It certainly saves time and makes more sense to have vendors set up shops inside corporate cafeterias to help employees have round-the-clock access to their favourite food.

At Satyam, employees have a choice of Amul Pizzeria outlets and savouries from Monginis, while GE employees have Baker's Inn at their Uppal-campus. If HSBC has Sarvi Bakers and Confectioners catering to the appetite of associates, `Wiproites' have a Pizza Inn at their service. In what is emerging as a new trend, almost all corporate corridors are teeming with food chains and vendors who collectively contribute to creating a better workplace.

Even as they make an alarming presence in cafeterias catering to the diverse palate, employees get the pleasure to chew the fat and have the junk while working. With such a wide gastronomic range, it is needless to add that office is one place they feel like being. With majority of the workforce being in the age group 25-35 inside the sprawling IT offices, cafeterias are splashed with colour and radiate high-octane energy.

"At Satyam, we have tried to convert our cafeterias into multi-vendor food courts wherever space permits. This contributes towards providing multiple meal/snack/beverage options to our associates as a value add," says corporate communications executive, Avani Ekbote. Satyam currently has a few Amul Pizzerias other than a tie-up with Monginis confectionery at three offices and one Nescafe Schon coffee pub.

For the branded vendor to sustain their operations, volumes are the key. Hence these vendors are usually given space to set up kiosks in corporate offices that have a large associate base. "Companies ask us to pass on the cost benefits directly to the associates in return of free catering space," says Aziz of Sarvi Bakers and Confectioners. As for the techies, it never was so good. "Grabbing a bite in between switching screens and taking calls is simply delightful," says Mahashweta Basuthakur. While for Noopur, a technical writer, food helps set off creative juices to flow, Utsav Upadhaya feels, "It is a distraction to work when you hear a neighbour nibbling on a crispy wafer."

"Most employees in the rat race to chase targets and volumes are short of time to enjoy a relaxed lunch, so many offices do not mind them having a juice or a burger while they are at work," explains HR consultant, Smriti Patro.

Besides, if making a few goodies available results in motivation and inspires productivity, companies do not mind a little bit of pampering. "In some cases, it helps even to bring down attrition rates," concurs head-hunter, Bharagav Puppala.

Studies have however shown that the average Indian corporate employee - particularly in the IT sector, does not need more than 1,600 calories a day. Now with the range of calorie-rich foodstuff, it easily exceeds the prescribed format. But that is another story for another day.

SOUVIK CHOWDHURY

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