updated 5/12/2014 5:17:40 PM ET 2014-05-12T21:17:40

The atmosphere here is filled with an energetic, positive vibe: stylish café tables: fresh gourmet coffee and tea, the sound of jazz or hip-hop under the buzz of conversation. It's filled with an energetic, positive vibe.

If this seems like a favorite neighborhood coffee shop, that’s not by mistake. At my company, Findaway World, a café is at the center of the office and the first thing one sees when walking in the doors. It’s an introduction to the company's culture: colorful and pulsing with activity. The company café is where members of the team, partners and guests intersect by chance and come to collaborate.

Related: How to Create a Productive Office Space

The company worked to make a statement in the design of the café. As a result, it’s alive, welcoming and never empty and part of what earned the firm a “Midwest meets Silicon Valley” label. 

This experience has demonstrated a great deal about the role that a company kitchen plays in any office : It's about so much more than a coffee break.

Related: 7 Ways to Craft a Great Company Culture on a Budget 

Beyond bagels. Having a communal area for a team to relax, refresh a beverage or grab a mid-day snack is no doubt important. But the food consumption part should only be a part of the attraction.

An open and well-planned kitchen area facilitates more than just how employees eat. It can be a nexus for the nourishing of corporate culture.

It can be the ideal setting for impromptu conversations and unexpected exchanges. Maybe no one really plans to meet there, but since two people just arrived at the same time to pour a cup of coffee, why shouldn't they sit down and catch up for a few? The kitchen brings new meaning to the notion of watercooler chatter.

Related: The Science of Office Design

Bye-bye, silos. An open kitchen space can naturally break down silos within an organization. When people from different project teams or departments come together in casual conversation, divisions blur without anyone thinking about it. 

Kitchen interaction is also an effortless way to dissolve boundaries of hierarchy by encouraging staffers to engage naturally. A member of the production crew and the CFO can easily converse about favorite TV shows or families -- without having time to be intimidated by the interaction. Their engagement not only builds rapport but also allows people to get to know one another organically. 

Staff interaction in a creative environment can contribute to fresh thinking. Bumping into colleagues encourages questions and collaboration, which in turn foster the birth of new ideas. Like great meals, good ideas come together more quickly in a group.

Related: How Good Meals and Goodwill Lead to Good Business

Kitchen as culture. The kitchen-as-hub layout also says something about the company’s physical environment, which makes a statement about the business itself. In a world where startup competition is fierce, the visual environment and office presentation counts. 

It’s not easy to design a company kitchen in such an expansive way, but it’s worth it. For a business that wants to convey its values in its environment, a community kitchen can be a centerpiece. It can show that the company cares about collaboration, creativity and communication, and it conveys a taste of the passion and pride that people likely pour into their business every day. 

Related: How to Make Your Second Office Not Feel Like a Neglected Stepchild

Copyright © 2013, Inc.


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