A sleek, open and visually pristine design allows the food at The Marketplace to take center stage and invites SAS customers to relax while enjoying the menu fare.
When SAS employees and customers enter the new atrium lobby connecting Building C's six-story tower with 683 offices and an executive briefing center, they walk on shiny limestone floors and see a dramatic sculpture and 35-foot-tall windows bringing natural light into the space. As they stop at the registration desks, visitors notice a scrolling display with information about the company inset on the wall behind and flanked by panels of reclaimed wood from trees cut down when the building was constructed. The SAS headquarters, conveys a strong message: a relaxed, open and spacious environment is conducive to bringing employees and customers together to research, develop and learn about SAS's business analytics software and services.
The 290,000-square-foot Building C is the newest of 23 buildings set on 900 acres at SAS world headquarters in Cary, N.C., just south of Raleigh and part of the state's infamous research triangle. The company has customers who work at more than 55,000 business, government and university sites in 133 countries. SAS (pronounced "sass") employs 12,837 persons worldwide. Nearly 4,940 employees work in the Cary location.
SAS once stood for "statistical analysis system" and began at North Carolina State University as a project to analyze agricultural research. As demand for such software grew, SAS was founded in 1976. In 2011 it reported $2.725 billion in revenue.
"Our charge was to design a building that displays the SAS corporate culture," says Jessica Anastes, RA, LEED AP, project manager at Davis Kane Architects, PA, the firm that provided architectural and interior design for the SAS project. "We strive for artful, honest design with natural materials and spaces that reflect their purpose." The executive briefing center includes an atrium, two auditoriums, meeting rooms, an art gallery, a large prefunction space with software demonstration stations and The Marketplace for dining.
Building C also contributes to helping SAS maintain its high-ranking position on Fortune magazine's list of the "100 Best Companies to Work For." In fact, SAS has been on Fortune's list since the inception of the ranking 15 years ago, and the company earned the top spot in 2010 and 2011 and placed third in 2012.
Downstairs from the lobby sits the 11,267-square-foot dining facility and a 1,692-square-foot coffee shop that is adjacent to the entrance and features Starbucks coffee, gelato and a pastry case. Because of the sloped ground on which Building C is built, the dining facility looks out onto ground level and the water feature, which retains storm water. The entire building is LEED Platinum certified and contains solar panels to heat water and generate electricity, rainwater reuse for toilets and irrigation, HVAC heat recovery, vegetated roof areas and materials that are low- or no-VOC, recycled and/or regional.
The foodservice system begins in the back-of-house kitchen. Food deliveries start to arrive at the building's loading dock at 6 a.m. Staff check products in, break them down and place them in the walk-in cooler and walk-in freezer, which together comprise 350 square feet and open directly into the kitchen. Staff place dry products in a designated 1,000-square-foot storage room outside of the kitchen.
When preparing meat and seafood, staff place the proteins in separate sinks to defrost or clean. On the opposite side of the room, staff prep vegetables and fruit on worktables. "The separation of prep areas helps us to eliminate potential contamination," says Eric Foster, executive chef with Bon Appétit Management Co. Foster began working with SAS in February 2011 as sous chef and became executive chef in October 2011.
In the hot prep area, the kitchen contains two double-stacked combi ovens for cooking meat, poultry, fish, vegetables and bread and one roll-in combi oven that accommodates a rack with 84 plates holding entrées for catered events. Staff can roll the products from the smaller combis and the rack directly into a blast chiller.
"Combis are the coolest equipment on the planet," Foster says, explaining that he had only minimal exposure to combi ovens before coming to SAS. "They are so versatile with cooking temperatures and humidity, and we can set controls to take the guesswork out of cooking many products. They allow us to be very efficient. With the entrées for catering, for example, we can cook in five minutes what would have taken 20 minutes with other equipment."
Staff transport chilled food to prep areas containing a 30-quart mixer, slicer, food processor and tilt skillet that assist in preparing ingredients for stocks, soups, salads and other menu items.
Also in the kitchen is a hot holding cabinet and ice makers for crushed ice needed for The Marketplace's chiller pans and for the coffee shop. In addition, a remote soda room and compressor room sit in the back of the house and away from customers' sight. "All the cold equipment uses remote power," says Reggie Daniel, the project's foodservice design consultant. (Daniel, who previously ran his own firm — Daniel Design — now is part of Camacho Associates.) "The building runs on a whole-building chiller system. All our refrigeration equipment runs with two racks of 25 compressors each, housed in a separate mechanical room. Also, the cooling systems are all water-cooled in a closed-loop setup. This takes the heat and noise out of the serving and cooking spaces and consolidates refrigeration for servicing."
In the dishroom, a pulper/solid waste extractor and disposer contribute to sustainable practices by reducing trash volume by 80 percent. This area also contains a pot/pan-washing sink. "The dishroom was designed with an accumulator to take the trays during slow times so an employee doesn't have to be in the room all the time," Daniel says. "A rack-type dishmachine was designed in along with ample shelving for bulk storage of plates and glasses for drying. The room has ample square footage to dry and store the entire china requirement for the facility."
"In The Marketplace, we also introduced simplicity into the design," Anastes says. "We eliminated clutter and used a warm, neutral palette to let the food take center stage." One-quarter-inch wood veneer counter fronts from trees indigenous within 500 miles, quartz countertops and surrounds, recycled glass terrazzo floors and glass mosaic tile stand out in the open space.
Daniel, who worked closely with Anastes and the Davis Kane and the SAS design team, explains that the clean space with simple lines is as much about what isn't there as what is. "There are not many dust catchers and visual clutter in this space," Daniel says. "It is designed to be long lasting and put customers at ease while they are here.
"For example, the servery area contains no menu boards, tray rails, stickers on equipment, baskets, or knick-knacks," Daniel continues. "No boxy equipment rises above eye level or even counter level at any of the stations." In addition, the custom-made food shields feature three-quarter-inch-thick vertical and horizontal glass sheets joined with UV bonding. Without metal uprights and supports for the shields, customers have clear lines of visibility to the food at the stations.
Another design element that helps support simplicity is a flush-mounted, recessed hood in the Market Grill and Chef's Table areas that have a relatively low, 11-foot ceiling. In addition, the fire suppression is masked. "The system pipes down through the wall to a point where they emerge from the wall right over Market Grill," Daniel says. "At Chef's Table, piping runs through a floor trench and up inside the front counter, angling over the cooktops at a height of about 12 inches. We worked with the local fire department and health department to help them understand and eventually approve the ventilation and fire-prevention systems."
For SAS, it was important to tie the simplicity of the design with its menu. So along those lines, when SAS brought on Bon Appétit Management Co. to become Building C's contract foodservice provider, it asked its new partner to place a particular emphasis on fresh food and preparation.
Accentuating the servery's visually pristine interior, lighting also highlights the food. Up-lighting and indirect fixtures impart a warm, inviting ambiance. In addition to ambient lighting, warm LED puck lights at various stations provide a light close to natural sunlight, which enhances the colors of the food.
When customers enter The Marketplace, they see a round greeter station with a single glass shelf and chiller pan that contains local ingredients and information about Bon Appétit's Farm to Fork commitment. Occasionally this island promotes food specials, too.
Turning right, customers see the grab-and-go area, named Express. Air-screen display units offer sandwiches, salads, wraps, soups, packaged meals, desserts, yogurt, milk and other beverages. "The merchandisers are recessed into the wall in cabinetry that allows the doors to pull out of recessed pockets to close at night," Daniel says. To the left is Parfait, a freestanding, circular counter with a steel column supporting three, three-quarter-inch-thick glass disks forming tiered shelves. Each glass disk contains steel rings with wiring for LED puck lights.
As customers walk along the room's perimeter, they encounter stations with simple identifying signage overhead. At Entrée, staff scoop and plate up center-of-the-plate entrees and side dishes held on induction warmers located below the counter, out of sight of customers. Prepared in the kitchen, food choices include seafood paella and fresh fish with olive tapenade served with couscous pilaf, steamed crimson lentils, candied carrots and steamed sugar snap peas. The station also offers a vegetarian option daily.
"At Entrée and nearly every station, the entire menu or parts of the menu change daily," Foster says. "If I write the menu, no one else has ownership of the menu except me. Instead, the staff person working at each station creates his or her own menu and therefore has a sense of ownership and pride. We all meet once a week to discuss the menu. I give input, and we make sure we aren't duplicating menu items at various stations. We do put out a printed menu a week in advance and receive produce daily and other products three times a week."
To the left of Entrée is Chef's Table, an exhibition station. Staff take ingredients from an ice well and cook them in front of the customers on one of three induction cooktops built into the counters. This station features such menu options as orzo with pork, sugar snap peas and broccoli in yellow curry sauce; and marinated tempeh or marinated pork chops pan seared in herb butter topped with apricot jam and served with roasted fingerling potatoes.
Next to Chef's Table, The Cutting Board, a deli, contains a large glass deli case and air-screen merchandiser displaying cold cuts, cheeses, toppings and other deli items. Staff take orders for premade sandwiches or made-to-order varieties. A rapid-cook oven and two panini grills allow staff to heat sandwiches. Specials include a jalapeno tortilla stuffed with tomatoes, yellow squash, cucumbers, olive tapenade and red onions with balsamic vinaigrette; five-spice roasted chicken, cucumber, cilantro and pickled vegetables with Vietnamese aioli on a baguette; and local crab salad with lettuce, tomato and avocado aioli on house-made whole wheat bread.
The next station in the lineup is Market Grill. A sandwich prep table and flattop grill support staff's production of chicken breast sandwiches with fontina cheese and roasted peppers and balsamic dressing on bread of the customer's choice; and a patty melt on toasted rye bread. During breakfast service, staff use the grill to make pancakes. Staff use the countertop combi oven to heat sandwiches, melt cheese and cook omelets. The equipment package at Market Grill also includes a glass-compartmented unit for breads and buns, a food warming cabinet, heated deck and conveyor toaster. "The client didn't want any fryers at SAS," Daniel says.
A key feature in this area is the use of the UV-bonded glass in a structure containing 12 glass cubbyholes for breads and buns built over a prep table.
Adjacent to Market Grill, The Market's ingredients sit in undercounter refrigerated bases within easy reach of staff who take out items when the need arises. "We thought this station would offer everything from customer-made specialty salads, a yogurt bar and sushi, but sushi is so popular we contracted out the preparation and operation to a local sushi company," Foster says. Staff here also use a rice cooker and place sushi plates on a cold deck before handing them to customers.
Continuing left, the Ovens station features pizzas and pasta dishes baked in the station's centerpiece, a gas-fired hearth oven. "A pizza oven was the only personal request for the café made by SAS cofounder and CEO, Jim Goodnight," Daniel says. "He actually wanted a wood-fired pizza oven, but we had to compromise with gas." The station offers a show while staff use a pizza prep table to roll dough, then toss it in the air, and bring it back to the table to prep it with sauces held in induction warmers. Customers can choose from four pizza varieties daily. Induction warmers hold sauces hot for various pasta dishes that change regularly. For example, this station serves couscous with a mushroom medley in marsala sauce; farfel with broccoli, carrots and cauliflower in cheddar cheese sauce; and egg noodles with chicken, celery, carrots and onions in chicken velouté.
The induction warmers here and at other stations are mounted on the underside of the quartz countertop so they become almost invisible. "The decorative black trivets on top of the counter hold pans and dishes off the counter by about a quarter inch, which stops the counters from burning rings or discoloring the quartz surface," Daniel says. The trivets are also fit with small red lights that activate when properly positioned over the buffet units below.
Also designed not to call attention to itself is a full-size refrigerator that stands in this station. "It is the tallest piece of equipment in the servery," Daniel says. "It is full size because it accommodates a roll-in rack. We recessed it into a wall and hid it behind a partition to make it as unobtrusive as possible."
The station also contains built-in heated decks, a custom-designed cold deck and pizza prep tables.
In the center of The Marketplace servery, two open-arc island salad bars creatively display fresh produce and salad ingredients. "SAS requested that all faces of the salad bar be visually appealing," Anastes says. "We opened up the typical utilitarian rectangle shape into two curved salad bars, which offer four lines of customer access."
The buffet units receive power from below and contain chiller pans accessible from both sides and measure 14 inches front to back. "With this width, customers don't have to reach so far with long tongs to access ingredients," Daniel says. "Chiller pans are bottom-mounted under the counter so there's not a glimpse of a stainless pan visible at the point where fresh crushed ice meets quartz." Staff regularly refill small-batch bowls with ingredients to maintain the fresh look of the bars.
Nearby the salad bars is Kettle, another circular island, which contains two hot drop-in wells for the day's soup offerings and a display of fresh bread.
As customers leave and walk past the cashier stations, they find two beverage bars stocked with free soda, juices, agua fresca, coffee and tea. "All the soda here and throughout the building feeds through lines from one large remote soda room," Daniel says. "Beverages are cold thanks to photo-head dispensers and satellite ice makers."
After customers buy their food, they take it to one of several dining rooms overlooking the landscaped grounds. "We provided an executive dining experience with elements that reduce the scale of the large space," says Sarah Burnette, also part of the Davis Kane team and the project's interior designer. "We didn't want a high school feeling in the large space, so we visually divided the 70-seat dining bays with a variety of table heights and architectural elements such as lighting, casework and columns. Flexible furniture layout supports a variety of customer events. At the bar-height tables, customers can plug into data and power ports. In another area, induction warmers are underneath the tables, which is useful during catered events."
As more of SAS's customers are exposed to The Marketplace, the designers' choice to keep the architecture and interior design simple is reinforced by customers' enthusiasm for the space's comfortable ambiance and the food selections. The equipment has a strong presence, but the fact that it is unobtrusive contributes greatly to the effectiveness of SAS's newest building.