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Free Lunches Are a Famous Tech Worker Perk. Why Facebook’s New Office Is Banned From Offering Them

Silicon Valley firms are notoriously generous with their food, offering free, high-quality meals at all times of the day in order to keep staff happy and on-site. There’s one problem: the tactic deprives restaurants outside the companies’ campuses of business.

When Facebook (FB) employees move into the company’s new Mountain View digs in the fall, they will notice the results of official concern over the issue—there won’t be an in-house cafeteria with free food, because the Mountain View council banned companies occupying the premises from fully subsidizing employee meals.

The ban was actually passed in 2014, but the Village complex, where Facebook is so far the only tenant, is only opening now.

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, the ban was explicitly designed to support local restaurants around the complex. “It really was geared more around trying to make sure we didn’t have 400,000 square feet of office space with people that never left the building,” former Mountain View mayor Michael Kasperzak told the paper.

Facebook is allowed to fully subsidize staff meals, as long as the employees go eat them outside the offices. And the nearby Milk Paul Market is readying itself to take advantage, by working with local restaurants to stock ready-to-eat meals.

The Chronicle reports that the Mountain View council could try to make Google (GOOGL) abide by the same conditions when it expands in the North Bayshore area. Mountain View voters will also decide in November whether Google should face a new per-employee business tax, in order to fund local transportation and housing.