How to Design Lunch Rooms

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How and where employees take their breaks for meals affect institutional efficiency as well as image. A well-designed lunch room can improve employee morale and performance and help reduce wasted time. The right lunch room can also encourage responsible living, cut down on cleanup efforts and maintain a sanitary environment.

Determine the best location for the lunch room. Lunch rooms far away from main work areas may appear to be a good idea because they give employees a real “break” from their work. But rooms that are situated too far from work areas can also be inconvenient, especially when hot beverage machines are there. Find a compromise between a location that provides a true break for employees and one that is so remote that just getting there becomes a time-waster.

Find all the food-preparation equipment needed to prepare a typical brown-bag or microwaveable meal or snack in a defined area of the lunch room. Make it easy for more than one person to prepare his lunch without having to wait for access to a microwave or workspace. Provide a large refrigerator (with an ice maker), two or more microwave ovens, and a sink with running hot and cold water. Post rules about foods left in the refrigerators. Stock the sink with dish soap, towels and a drying rack to encourage housekeeping. Provide common prep equipment like knives, cutting boards, mixing spoons, hot pads, and microwave-safe containers, cups and plates.

Establish a hot beverage area designed for quick pit stops. Use a commercial grade coffee machine that is connected to a water source to avoid manually refilling the reservoir. Commercial machines brew coffee much faster than ordinary machines. Use pre-packaged coffee-and-filter packets to standardize coffee brewing and speed cleanup. Provide a hot water “on demand” dispenser.

Equip the lunch room with several garbage cans with foot-operated or swinging lids for maximum convenience and sanitation. Place one can near the kitchen prep area, one near the hot beverage center and one near the exit door. Stock heavy-duty paper towels and a broom and dust pan to encourage cleanup after accidents.

Include “healthy” and “not-so-healthy” choices democratically in vending machines. All vending machines must accept $1 bills, but provide a bill changer machine for larger denominations. Debit card machines are even more convenient.

Offer dining tables for groups of four, six and eight and a few “two-top” tables and chairs for more private dining.

Design lighting that is good for food prep tasks over the kitchen area but pleasant for dining over the table areas if possible. Halogen lighting is good for task areas, while incandescent lights are best for dining. Avoid fluorescent lights.

Provide current and “evergreen” reading material not related to office matters. Provide access to television news if desired but mute the sound and use closed-caption services only.

Install a large wall clock. Standard clocks are better than digital clocks for increasing employee awareness of time spent on breaks.


  • Set a policy that management will not intrude on workers during their lunch break in this room except in an emergency.