When California-based Autodesk opened an East Coast office for its architecture, engineering and construction division (AEC), one of the first objectives was building a site with complete, interior and exterior LEED certification. This required working hand-in-hand with a Massachusetts corporate dining company to design a state-of-the-art food service facility that would meet the firm’s rigorous standards for energy-efficiency and quality. From the ground up, Café Services has played a vital part helping AEC achieve its goals. Mission: Inspiring Innovation Through Thought Leadership. The mission of the AEC Solutions (architecture, engineering and construction) division of Autodesk goes beyond just providing leading edge software to construction and engineering firms. It also involves being a source of inspiration and innovation in an industry challenged by the rising, worldwide demand for more energy efficient construction. A solid testament to this mission is the new building AEC constructed when it moved from the Autodesk headquarters in California to its current location in Waltham, Massachusetts. LEED-certified inside and out, the AEC building embodies the firm’s quest to affect change through thought leadership. The mission dovetails closely with the firm’s technology product, which provides capabilities for analyzing the energy efficiency of building designs. Challenge: Achieving LEED-Platinum Standards. A vital element of the new AEC building project was the design of an upscale corporate food service facility. Like the rest of the interior, the dining room would meet LEED-platinum standards and serve as a showcase for the company’s commitment to engineering and architectural excellence. It would also generate minimal food and paper waste. A small space bordered by a conference room and showroom, the dining room would be well ventilated to prevent strong food odors from wafting into surrounding areas. A balance of form and function, it would also serve as a dining oasis to up to 150 culturally diverse employees—including engineers from within the building, business travelers from Autodesk’s California headquarters and customers, worldwide. Helping AEC address these requirements was a welcome challenge for Café Services, a regional company with a reputation for success in green cafeteria design and construction. With its uniquely entrepreneurial approach to food service, Café Services enjoys more flexibility than many large Massachusetts corporate dining companies, making it best suited to drive progress of the AEC project. Results: Creating A Feast For The Eyes—And Appetite. Today, the AEC dining room is a warm, vibrant gathering spot illuminated by natural daylight. Diners flow easily through queues, passing by voluptuous displays of fresh, colorful food—artfully prepared by Café Services chef manager, Sonya. Food is grilled outdoors on the adjoining patio, preventing smells from seeping into other parts of the building. The clink of stainless silverware against china fills the open space. Except for the soupspoons, the dining room uses no paper utensils or serving wear to minimize paper waste—a LEED-certification requirement. Sonya works diligently to create an environment where diners can check the stresses of their workdays at the entrance. Her commitment pays off. About 70% of the building’s population dines regularly with Café Services. This is a robust rate of participation by any standards. "We (Café Services) want people to enjoy their lunch break," says Sonya. Her approach: Knowing what dining room guests want and doing whatever she can to make them feel special. This is especially valuable at AEC, where the culturally diverse dining population includes pescetarians, vegetarians, vegans and people with a preference for healthy meals and California-style cuisine. Many of the engineers that dine in the cafe have a taste for ethnic cuisines—like Asian and Indian. Sonya embraces the challenge, taking special cares to create meals that offer something for everyone. For example, a vegetarian soup does double duty as a vegan meal. Spicy red curried beef over jasmine rice appeals to diners with a preference for Asian cuisine. If Sonya knows what specific guests like, she’ll personally let them know when it’s on the menu. She’ll even take requests—noting that a garden burger prepared at the request of one guest flew off the grill! The Passion Pay Off: Diner Satisfaction High at AEC. Sonya loves what she does. So making diners feel special is a talent she thrives on. “It doesn’t take much when you like what you’re doing,” she says. "Sometimes, it’s as simple as keeping the anchovies off a few Caesar salad entrees." Like everyone at Café Services—from executive management to the hourly associates that serve diners every day—Sonya emphatically tells anyone that she’s passionate about cooking and people. It shows. In a recent AEC survey, more than 90% of diners shared that they receive excellent service in Sonya’s café and that Café Services associates are attentive, friendly and accommodating. A healthy majority agrees that food quality is excellent. As for Sonya, she gets great feedback from diners all the time. "My guests ask me for recipes all the time," she says. "One regular with an aversion to potatoes told me once, 'I never knew anyone could make a potato taste this good!'"