REAL Case Study: W6 Café at Google

For the Guckenheimer cafés, the certification process was slightly different than the one for independent restaurants. "They have hundreds of recipes in their database, and in some cases where they have buffets, points for portion control may not be viable," Williams says. High-volume operations such as these also have different cooking preparation and equipment needs.

Google's fully subsidized employee café, W6, at its San Francisco office was one of the Guckenheimer cafés to earn REAL certification in June. As one of the first REAL-certified operations in the country, "Guckenheimer also assisted REAL with the development of their standards and auditing process," says executive chef Ken Fair.

The first step in the process was receiving a list of questions about local and sustainable sourcing of produce, meat and seafood, 80 percent of which comes from California, according to Fair. "We also had questions about our vegan and vegetarian options, use of organic produce and grass-fed beef or free-range chicken, what types of desserts and if we charge extra for sodas," he says.

A registered dietician then came out to the café for a visit, inspecting the café's coolers and dry storage to verify the use of fresh produce and avoidance of processed or trans-fat-laden food. The dietician also inspected the café's equipment and cooking processes. "They wanted to see if we use any deep fryers, how clean our operation is and how we cook dishes, such as if we sauté most things in oil or use ovens and steamers for healthier fish, vegetables, grains and rice," says Fair.

W6 serves between 1,300 and 1,400 Google employees daily just for lunch, and about 450 to 500 for breakfast. The café is set up as a buffet with varying action stations for made-to-order or just-made dishes. For example, staff toss prepared salads just two minutes prior to pickup along the line. "We change our menu daily to accommodate seasonal finds and feature about 325 menu items each week, not including our micro kitchens or catering operation," Fair says. "We also always offer a vegan entrée as well as vegan and vegetarian sides."

The café also composts and recycles both pre- and post-consumer waste, including compostable paper and disposal products. After the on-site audit process, W6 completed several follow-up questions before earning its REAL certification.

While it did not factor into the REAL-certification process, the LEED Gold-certified building focuses on energy and water management. W6's kitchen, for example, is entirely electric with an efficient hood system.

"We have hung our certification award in our café, and this is something we are extremely proud of," says Fair. While a restaurant or open-to-the-public B&I operation such as the Guckenheimer location in Boston's John Hancock Building might find REAL certification to be a competitive advantage, W6's certification falls in line with its main health and wellness goals. "Google and Guckenheimer are very focused on bettering the health of its employees," says Fair. "For Googlers, that's just a part of their world."