Does your office give employees good reason to come into work? If it doesn’t, it’s time to re-evaluate your offering. As well as stimulating work and decent pay, being encouraged to take regular breaks and eat well have surprising effects on workforce productivity and positivity, as our office canteen guide explains.

The office canteen can be the star of the show and its importance should never be underestimated. MPL takes a deep dive into office canteen design ideas and explores why taking a break is a business must.

Why A Well Designed Canteen Is So Important

Many of the office designs from MPL place equal emphasis on the office canteen and an office break out area as much as desk layouts and meeting rooms. It’s because we firmly believe that looking after employees holistically leads to better staff morale, recruitment and retention. Here’s why an office canteen deserves the best design treatment:-

Encourage healthy habits

Employers should give staff every reason to take a break so they can develop healthy habits. If your office canteen design is lacklustre or hasn’t had a makeover in a number of years, employees may favour sitting at their desk with a sandwich over taking a screen break. We already know staying sedentary during the working day is a bad habit and a well-designed office canteen should be worth getting up for.

Increase productivity

Working non-stop will not lead to the best output. People lose focus when they don’t take a break – mistakes can happen and tension sets in. Taking regular breaks will refresh the mind, restore clarity and reset the body.

Promote eating lunch

Not stopping for lunch may sound efficient but it’s often counter-productive, as author Christopher Wanjek found. His book Food At Work is clear that those who skip lunch are more stressed and less productive.

Foster better mental wellbeing

The office can be a stressful environment and when we work longer hours or take on extra responsibilities, the toll on our mental health increases. Staff should feel they can take a break when tasks become overwhelming or they need a change in scenery.

Provide informal collaboration space

The office canteen can double up as a place to brainstorm and catch up with colleagues from different departments. The right office canteen design will set the tone for more informal collaborations and can help staff become more creative.

How To Create An Office Canteen That Works

The retail interior design solutions by MPL blend style with substance. That means you’ll get an office canteen that entices staff to visit and provides a creative place to hang out, as well as perform its basic function as somewhere to grab a drink or have lunch. When coming up with office canteen ideas, the MPL team will consider:-

Space planning

The goal will be to use the space wisely so people can move freely between a serving counter or preparation area and tables and chairs. If space allows, we will create different canteen zones so people can choose where they sit depending on the nature of their break and their state of mind.

If there’s enough space, an office canteen can feature a breakfast island, which is a great way to informally gather people together. Our refurbishment at Yoooserv in Weybridge featured a stunning island that provided seating and a food preparation surface.

Appropriate furniture

As shop fitters, we are used to zoning areas by specifying different furniture. For instance, we may create a ‘Friends’ style work café positioned by a refreshment station - a grouping of sofas and armchairs can quickly create a casual ‘sit and sip’ coffee area. If there’s in-house catering, as there was at our Lanes Group Plc project, we may specify diner-style booth seating and a higher proportion of bistro-style tables and chairs.


An office canteen should provide a non-work environment and adding some entertainment options can help prevent the space from turning into an extension of the office. You may choose to play a radio station over an integrated sound system or install a large TV screen. These can prove useful if the office canteen becomes a place to hold social events.

Sometimes it’s a game of pool that will tempt staff away from their desks and our article on how to plan a break out area details the considerations when adding any games to an office environment.

Colour & brand

Businesses can be a bit bolder when it comes to office canteen design ideas, using the space to really express their personality. Playful colours, neon LED and photo-based wall art or biophilic focal points – as seen at Lanes Infrastructure in Guildford – help distinguish an office canteen design from a standard work area.

What Type Of Furniture Works Best?

The office canteen is a balancing act, marrying furniture that’s durable and easy to clean with high design expectations and suitability. Spills and stains should be expected so we naturally err towards furniture made from wood or plastic, or soft seating upholstered in leather/faux leather – anything that can be wiped clean.

Although encouraging people to take breaks is vital, it’s important that the office canteen retains a degree of professionalism and decorum – you could say we don’t want to make it so comfortable that staff never leave! With this in mind, we’ll always specify a mix of soft and hard seating. Past clients have told us large bar-height desks with perching stools are the most used items of office canteen furniture, as they provide space to eat lunch and set up a laptop or iPad. With this in mind, MPL always pays careful attention to power and data supply in an office canteen design, with plenty of charging points and plug sockets.

If you’re creating an office canteen in an open plan area, MPL can suggest creative solutions to enclose the space. Options include half or full height partitions (involving glass if there’s a desire to keep a connection with the main office); open shelving units with built in storage or decorative screens - see our Hurford Salvi Carr project for some fine fretwork screens and our work for Fine & Country on Park Lane for adjustable louvre-style panels.

Why a Healthy Lunch Offering Is Key For Employee Happiness & Well-Being

Providing an office canteen is a good way to get staff to eat a varied, healthy diet – vital to our overall well being and state of mind.

Interestingly, a study by the Finish National Institute for Health and Welfare found workers who ate their office canteen consumed more fruit and vegetables than those who bought in a packed lunch. It’s possible to achieve this even if you don’t have in-house catering. Businesses can include fridges, freezers, a hob, oven and microwave in their workplace refurbishment, subsequently filling the office canteen with nutritious ingredients and groceries free of charge. Staff hydration shouldn’t be overlooked either – drinking enough water is just as important as refuelling.

Benefits of Encouraging Healthy Break Habits

There is a curious work ethic in Britain where taking a break during the day is seen as a weakness. While ploughing through might make staff feel more accomplished and diligent, it’s not good for long-term health or productivity. As well as the office canteen – an open sign from a company that it’s OK to take a lunch break or enjoy a ‘watercooler’ moment – businesses should be encouraging other healthy habits that include:

  • Getting fresh air by going for a short walk
  • Scheduling a break with colleagues at least once a day
  • Providing a gym, yoga space, showers and secure cycle storage to encourage exercise
  • Installing break out areas that encourage staff to get up from their desks

If the phrase ‘office canteen’ conjures up rather dated images of stainless steel and melamine surfaces, let MPL change your mind. Our office fit out services can include the full spec and fit-out of a modern office canteen that wouldn’t look out of place in a boutique hotel or Google headquarters. Get in touch and we can share our office canteen design ideas with you.