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Google Cafeteria's Data Driven Approach

Job postings for gourmet chefs and the subsequent Google cooking competition first introduced us to the wonders of Google’s cafeteria, and the unlimited free food gave way to new understanding of terms such as fat cat executive or Googles well rounded approach to business.  But what is truly fascinating from an analytics perspective is what google is now doing to manage this revolutionary cafeteria.

The Google cafeteria provides for all the employees wants and needs. Offering everything from top of the line gourmet meals to M&Ms, Google enables its employees to eat what they want. But not without a few nudges in the right direction.


Google spares no expense feeding its employees.

The program now has several years of data accumulated, and with this experience Google uses data discovery and psychology to influence employee behavior in a positive way. How are they doing this? Always the early adopter, Google uses “People Analytics” in a unique way to influence behavior and transform the health of employees.

Commonly restricted to HR departments, people analytics rarely gets the chance to truly show what it is all about: using analytics to discover trends in people groups. in Google’s case, every visit to the cafeteria creates data about their employees, and by analyzing that people group Google has determined how best to meet their dietary needs. In the cafeteria, analytics determines everything from product placement and visual cues to portion size and plating.

One of the first things Google found was that convenience and first impressions matter greatly in food selection. In fact some studies show people are most likely to fill their plates with the first thing they see. So what did they do? The salad bar no holds the premium real estate and deserts are tucked away. Obeying the law of convenience, Google caused an almost 10% drop in caloric intake from candy in just one week by taking candy out of its easy to grab bag and putting it in opaque bins.

Google also tests various ways to nudge employees towards healthier options, and the data shows certain practices to be more effective than others. Instead of providing all the nutritional information on every meal, Google has found that a simplified color scheme works better. Those fruits and vegetables are coded green for go and have that color predominantly featured around them, while deserts are a caution inducing red. And regarding desserts, Google designs them to be eaten in just three bites, studies show that is small enough for health while large enough to deter seconds.

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