The first time I ate at the Googleplex in Mountain View, sometime around 2010, I was with an engineering friend who took me to several cafes. Our plan was to have lunch followed by a second lunch, followed by dessert. One of the cafes served Basque food, which at the time sounded so absurdly specific — not Spanish food, Basque — that I laughed out loud. It meant nothing to the hungry Googlers, whose only concern was that you don't "piggyback" but badge in to every door. I've eaten there three or four times, plus at least once or twice at Google's S.F. office — and at Twitter and Airbnb, too. Nothing's quite like the Googleplex, which feels close to what the Soviet Union hoped lunchtime would be like under a dictatorship of the proletariat.
Yes, tech workers can bring their dogs in, and get on-site dry-cleaning, massages, trips to the ball pit, and God-only-knows what else. But the food is the best perk, the bottomless-mimosa principle applied to everything. It's meant to make you more efficient, so that you don't fritter time away by dashing off-campus into Mountain View, but it's also intended to keep you so happy that you don't peel off and form your own start-up with all the intellectual capital rattling around between your ears.
And now it may be coming to an end. The free part, anyway.