I worked at Facebook from 2012 to 2015 and at Google from 2015 to 2017. I also enjoyed free meals as a guest at Google going as far back as 2003, so I’ve eaten more than my fair share of free meals at both places.
The early 2000’s Google food was a step up from anything either place has now I think. I randomly had venison for the fist time in my life on a Google guest pass, and it was amazing. I’ve heard stories of lobster and bear being served back in the day as well. Google has more budget control than they used to, and doesn’t pull things like that anymore.
Overall todays the meals are pretty comparable. They’re both more or less what you’d get from a $15 to $25 meal outside the bubble.
Both have a variety of heavily themed and lightly themed cafes. You can reliably get more or less standard options such as a salad, pizza, or Indian every day of the week. Google also has food trucks which serve the same two or three items every day, but rotate across various locations on campus. They were my preferred choice when one of the ones I liked was near me. Facebook’s lightly themed cafes, would have a genre theme for every meal. One day they might be a pasta bar, the next Burmese, and kid’s food the day after (corn dogs, mashed potatoes, etc.). Google’s lightly themed restaurants tend to be more uniformly lightly themed. You often couldn’t tell what they were going for if they were going for anything at all.
Either way I’d always be able to find something I didn’t mind eating even if I couldn’t find something I was always excited about.
Both companies also have the meme that the food is much better in the satellite offices. My limited experience suggests that this might have been true, but I think the difference is likely overstated. Even very good food gets a little less appealing with iteration.
There was one major difference in Google and Facebook’s food philosophy though. Google wants to make you to eat healthy and will lean on you in all sorts of ways to make that happen. They hide their sodas behind glazed glass in the mini-kitchens. They used to have frosted mini-wheats in the kitchens, but they had nothing but healthy cereal options by the time I left. The desserts are always individually portioned and small. You can take as many of the desserts as you want, but it’s clear what they’re trying to get you to do. Charlie’s, Google’s original large cafe on the main campus, has many different desserts laid out in one place and usually there’s a line you have to get through. The front of the dessert array is fruit. That makes sense as a way to encourage you to pick the healthier option (and both Google and Facebook frontload the healthy options in the buffet lines everywhere for this reason). It makes less sense when you know that it takes a long time to serve yourself fruit. Picking up individual squares of watermelon with tongs is much slower than grabbing a couple cookies or a pudding cup, which has the effect of making the line much longer than it needs to be, whether you want orange chunks or something else. I can’t say whether this is intentional or just an unintended consequence, but given what I’ve seen I wouldn’t put it past Google to have seen the slower dessert lines and been content.
Facebook also makes it easy to eat healthy but doesn’t really care whether you do or not. Sodas are displayed as prominently as bottled water, and plenty of sugary kid’s cereals are available if that’s what you’re into. The crown jewel of Facebook’s food system is the Sweet Stop, which has a variety of fresh-baked pastries combined with an ice cream parlor, featuring whipped cream and real hot fudge. You could have a full banana split if you wanted, and this fact was advertised once a week. Google has scooped ice cream in one location several miles from where I worked, but nothing like the unbridled extravagance of the sweet stop. Making my own brownie sundae was often a highlight of the day. Hmm…, now that I think about it a bit more, forget everything I said about Google and Facebook being comparable. Facebook’s food way was better!