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This week’s column had to fit onto a measly one page, so I couldn’t include some of the random tidbits that piled up after a week and a half of visiting the District’s cafeterias. Here they are:
A number of the federal government’s cafeterias have been upgraded over the last few years as the General Services Administration re-solicited contracts with requirements for much healthier food. The State Department was among the first to benefit. Which doesn’t mean you can’t still get your pizza and fries—-just that there are more fresh veggies in the mix, and a lot less mayonnaise.
- According to the Downtown Business Improvement District, the number of “destination restaurants” downtown—-so not including sandwich joints and coffeeshops—-has nearly doubled over the past decade or so, going from 78 in 1999 to 148 in 2012.
- The four main food service companies in federal cafeterias are Restaurant Associates, I.L. Creations, Guest Services International (the same company that provides all concessions on the National Mall) and Sodexo (which has 30 cafeterias in the city total, including hospitals and universities). There are a lot of more boutique operators, though, that serve smaller companies and non-profits—-Seasons Culinary, for example, serves AARP and one shared by law firms Mayer Brown and Goulston & Storrs. Patton Boggs uses the high-style, corporate-backed Flik Foods.
- Speaking of law firms: Don’t believe me that most have cafeterias? Studley’s Tom Fulcher ran down the list: Blank Rome, Wilmer Hale, Dickstein Shapiro, Covington & Burling, Arnold & Porter…having more lawyers per capita than any city in America also means more internal food service.
- National Public Radio director of real estate Maury Schlesinger gave this reason for including a cafeteria in their new building: “Many of our staff works on tight deadlines and heading out for coffee, lunch or afternoon snack cuts into their time to work on their stories,” he writes. “The convenience factor is considerable for other staff as well. A final factor is social. Having one ‘watering hole’ provides a place where employees from different parts of the company can get together; improving cross-departmental communication as well as helping to form a corporate culture and staff identity.”
- Lots of commercial tenants, however, don’t think cafeterias are all that appealing. Akridge broker Greg Tomasso says that none of his clients have asked for them, and that none of Akridge’s buildings have them. Rather, he emphasizes the amount of food options within walking distance when marketing a property. “From a personal perspective, being locked into a cafeteria every day, that was college and grade school,” Tomasso says. “We’re all professionals now, it’s nice to go grab a sandwich.”
- Although quite a pleasant dining experience, the Department of Energy’s cafeteria is probably the biggest waste of space, real estate wise: Located right off the 10th Street Promenade, it’s a single-level pavilion devoted solely to food service. If the federal government had any sense, it would put an apartment building on top.
Hands down, the best cafeteria that’s accessible to the public is in the Library of Congress’ Madison Building, which just reopened a couple of weeks ago after a total overhaul. Sure, you could go to Longworth House Office Building and get even higher quality food. But then you’d be in a basement, not on the 6th floor, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the Capitol Riverfront, and wireless internet through the whole room—-truly a gift.