photo: Jeff Chiu of the Associated Press

By Paul Schuette
Cafeterias and high-end food service have become nearly synonymous with the services that large Silicon Valley companies provide to their employees. Like other Silicon Valley companies, Twitter offers food as a perk for attracting and retaining employees. Twitter’s headquarters has been located in suburban Silicon Valley where restaurants and other food options are not within easy walking distance.

However, this is about to change as Twitter is moving its campus to San Francisco as part of a large-scale redevelopment project occurring in the mid-Market area of the city. While other companies and restaurants are moving to the mid-Market neighborhood, the question is whether employees will leave their new space to create a symbiotic relationship between Twitter’s new campus and other small businesses. The New York Times recently explored this urban development phenomenon.

The article raises a number of ideas of how corporate cafeterias can integrate with the larger surrounding urban fabric. In thinking about engaging the city, there are many possibilities for not only incubating new businesses, but also creating a new way of creating a “customer space” for users to encounter the Twitter brand. This approach to creating new relationships between small businesses and a large anchor tenant has been tested in new retail environments, most recently in Urban Outfitter’s Space 15 Twenty project in Los Angeles. Could a space as commonplace as a cafeteria become a way of promoting both Twitter’s brand, and a space type for a new kind of urban engagement?