Partnerships With Local Companies Help Tesla Feed The People At Tesla Gigafactory 1

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An army travels on its stomach, the old expression goes. If you want to get anything done, you’ve got to feed the people doing the work. But what if you are employing thousands of folks at a factory way out in the desert, miles from anywhere? What then?

When Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 opened in July of 2016, there was one food truck available to cater to the needs of the workers. Today, with 7,000 workers in 2 million square feet of space, things have gotten a lot more sophisticated. Now, 20 food trucks service the site with as many as 15 on hand on any given day. There is a 19,000 square foot central cafeteria that seats 650 people with more break areas and food courts scattered throughout the facility.

Stephen Widmer, senior culinary project manager at Gigafactory 1, tells the Reno Gazette Journal, “You can’t ask people to walk miles for lunch.” He says you also can’t ask them to wait long for their food and beverages. “Many shift workers are on their feet. We have to be respectful of that. The whole goal is spending their time eating and relaxed, not standing in a line.” Workers can save even more time by paying with their employee badge.

The typical meal at Gigafactory 1 costs $6.00 with only a few selections costing as much as $10.00. The food choices are impressive — Chicken parmesan, sushi, ham & Swiss on rye, vegetarian spring rolls, black coffee, caramel macchiatos.

Tesla has partnered with several local companies in an arrangement that has been good for both. The company provides all utilities, charges no rent for floor space, and makes sure the staff running the food operations have a place to park when they come to work. “Rather than go with a corporate caterer, we saw this as a good opportunity to bring the local food scene into the building,” says Widmer. “Reno’s food and beverage scene has blasted off — it made sense for us to incorporate that.”

Blasted off may be an understatement. Anton Novak, owner of Rounds Bakery, says his revenue has grown 1000% since he first started delivering bagels from his store in Reno to Gigafactory 1 back in 2016. He started with 30 employees; now he has 80. “We bought a bankrupt business,” Novak says. “We were using all our cash to keep it afloat. This partnership has absolutely cemented us as a permanent fixture.”

Since Tesla came to town, other tech companies are flocking to the industrial areas around Reno as well Novak adds. “Tesla is now getting us other clients,” such as the nearby Switch data center and Aqua Metals, a recycler of lead products. Rounds Bakery recently purchased a 12,000-square-foot production kitchen to better serve area customers.

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Kris Lueamrung, owner of Bangkok Cuisine, is enthusiastic about his relationship with Tesla. Like Rounds Bakery, his revenue has increased significantly, which has led to hiring more people. He says the partnership with Tesla has “pushed us to learn more about business and catering and how to accommodate large groups. It has given us a tremendous amount of exposure to so many new customers that didn’t know about our place.”

Tesla is proactive when it comes to making sure its people are taken care of properly by the food service providers. Employees can provide feedback on their culinary experiences or suggest menu options using their iPads. “Responsiveness to feedback is important. It’s important to us that if employees want something specific, we work to accommodate that request,” Widmer says.

There is a lot of huffing and puffing about Tesla by the financial tattle sheets these days, but maybe someone looking to assess the long-term prospects of the company should take a look at how it treats its people. If Gigafactory 1 is any example, Tesla is doing a first-class job of looking out for the people on the front lines, the ones who are doing the work. Perhaps that is a more accurate way of measuring a company than perseverating on tweets and bong hits.


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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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