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Eating Well at Fab 8

By David Lammers

The quality of life has improved at the GlobalFoundries Fab 8 here in upstate New York. Sure, people here are breathing easier now that yields are up at the company’s fab in Dresden, Germany, and winter has turned to a luscious spring here at Malta, located north of Albany.

The gut-level joy comes because the fab’s new cafeteria opened on Monday, April 16. I arrived the next day to do some interviews about how the fab is staffing up, getting ready for volume production later this year.

When time came for lunch, we made our way down to the spanking-new cafeteria. I saw a sign for sushi, and went over there, thinking there might be some plastic packages of pre-made sushi, the kind you can pick up at the grocery store when you are in a hurry.

Instead, there was a real Japanese sushi chef at work, knife in hand, who began making the two rolls I ordered. Two other customers soon arrived, as I heard a Japanese man and woman behind me speaking in anticipation about the various kinds of sushi available. They were in the fab to install equipment, and had discovered a little island of gastronomic home.

The GlobalFoundries fab, like most semiconductor operations, is an international place, with people from 30 countries among the 1,300 (and growing) employees. Judging by the visitor’s log in the lobby, there is a steady stream of visiting contractors who hail from abroad. Half of the GlobalFoundries employees come from outside the area.

These workers from abroad have raised the standards for the Fab 8 cafeteria, said Angelo Mazzone, the CEO of a company which runs five cafeterias and six restaurants in the area. “We have a lot of people here from Singapore and Dresden, and these people from overseas know so much about food,” Mazzone said.

Each food station has a bona fide chef, and there is a full-time coffee barista who offers drinks made from beans sourced from around the world. “The people from Dresden like real strong coffee,” Mazzone noted.

Angelo Mazzone (left) with good customer Travis Bullard at the GlobalFoundries Fab 8 cafeteria.

One of his challenges was to develop a base of suppliers able to supply the variety of foods offered at the cafeteria. One objective is to offer a complete meal for $6, but most people spend between $7 and $10 on lunch.

Travis Bullard, who handles corporate public relations at the Malta site, said GlobalFoundries is part of a bigger trend among high-tech companies offering good food to their workers. Before coming to Malta, Bullard worked in Austin at the new Longhorn campus of AMD, and he said his former employer also has a deluxe cafeteria. Google and Apple apparently are at the forefront of a trend to offer healthy food, either for free or for very low prices.

At Malta, the goal is for the cafeteria to pay for itself, Mazzone said. Right now, the cafeteria is open from 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. “It may be open 24/7 at some point, but that comes at a big cost,” he noted. The fab is in the midst of a beautiful forest, well away from any restaurants. A round-the-clock food supply will be a necessity once volume production begins later this year.

GlobalFoundries is ahead of schedule on its hiring plans, Bullard said, and expects to have 1,600 working at the fab in a few months, up from 1,300 now. Before the cafeteria opened, there were more than a thousand construction workers who were fed well from a big tent at the construction site. Mazzone converted a shipping container, the kind which moves cargo on ships, into an outdoor kitchen to supply the fab builders with cooked food. That worked well, but food brought in can’t compete with a real kitchen.

Bullard said the cafeteria is a place where the workers can come together and talk. “People bump into each other in the cafeteria and start talking about things they are working on. We never had that before this place opened. It’s an intangible benefit.”

An army marches on its stomach, and foundries are no different. Packing a lunch day after day can be a drag, and so it is no wonder that the GlobalFoundries workers were smiling broadly last week. The sushi is excellent.

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