Cheap and convenient, the corporate cafeteria has long been a humble — perhaps even drab — fixture of Japan’s workplaces. Now, companies want to make them more than just somewhere workers have their lunch.

Back in the pre-COVID era, it was typical to see cafeterias crowded with hungry employees when the clock hit noon. Yet this scene completely disappeared at many firms in the early stage of the health crisis as people bunkered down at home — another major shift for the nation’s companies that went along with the embrace of remote work.

However, as Japan shakes off its pandemic caution and shifts toward “living with COVID,” more companies are returning to office, and as they do so they are re-imagining the cafeteria as a space where employees can work, eat healthier food and deepen in-house communication, with the canteen all the while showcasing the company’s sustainability and climate credentials.