The Valley of Free Food: How One Firm Caters to California's High Tech Giants

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Silicon Valley may pay fat salaries, but its employees still enjoy a free lunch — or dinner or midnight snack.

And while employees at Oracle , Google , Apple eBay , Facebook and more can thank their employers, the companies owe a lot to Bon Appétit Food Management, a Palo Alto that decided to cater to the high-tech market 25 years ago.

The company, a subsidiary of the UK'sCompass Food, now counts 400 companies and organizations across the country, serving 135 million meals a year.

In the Valley, you could say, hiring Bon Appetit is a no-brainer:

In one of her first actions as CEO of Yahoo  , Marissa Mayer offered free meals to its employees.

Yahoo's new CEO Marissa Mayer
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"It sent a message to those employees, " said Bon Appetit cofounder Fedele Bauccio, who still runs the company. "The message was we care about you, we’re gonna create a great culture.

And great food, by most accounts, including CNBC's Jon Fortt, who visited the company at its Pay Pal kitchen.

In health-conscious California, it may be no surprise that Bon Appetit emphasizes fresh food, which is often sourced locally.

Mayer herself is no stranger to the food or its HR benefits. Her decade-long experience at Google  taught her how important food is to employee morale, not to mention that free food keeps them on campus — and working longer hours — and off traffic-jammed freeways and local highways.

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