Case Study

Heineken’s Leiden corporate head office: visibility at last

January 30, 2023


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We've all heard of Heineken, but many people don’t know where the company’s Dutch head office is located. Back in the 1970s, the beer brand relocated its brewery and other Dutch business units to Zoeterwoude, in the Barrepolder area between the towns of Leiden and Alphen aan den Rijn. Several of the company’s international operations would eventually follow suit, and this unit is currently divided into separate entities. Heineken Netherlands and CBRE set out to find a new site for the Dutch head office, eventually deciding on the Lorentz building in Leiden.

‘Zoeterwoude’s best-kept secret’

‘From a logistics perspective, you couldn’t wish for a better location than our former building,’ says Joost Martens, Heineken’s Director of Legal Affairs and in charge of the relocation. ‘It’s bang in the centre of the Randstad metropolitan area, with easy access for our lorries, which deliver our beer all across the country. But as commercial building aesthetics go, it’s a little nondescript and not the most exciting location for a company of Heineken’s stature. The buildings are hidden away from sight and the site is not well served by public transport, which means it’s really no longer suitable as a head-office location in this day and age.’

New generation ‘prefers to be where the action is’

To comply with the current environmental health and safety (EHS) regulations, office buildings must meet a different, more stringent set of standards. Martens: ‘The Zoeterwoude building served us well for many decades, but in recent years it had been sliding into obsolescence and we were increasingly faced with its limitations. We felt the location had become a liability and was holding us back when it came to being a competitive employer and attracting new talent. The new generation of workers – especially the calibre of people we’re looking for – prefer to be where the action is, in the city centre. On several occasions, we’ve had desirable job candidates withdraw their application when they heard they’d be posted to the Zoeterwoude site.’


On several occasions, we’ve had desirable job candidates pull out when they heard they’d be posted to the Zoeterwoude site.
Joost MartensDirector Legal Affairs at Heineken Netherlands

New era, new requirements

‘There’s also the fact that we work very differently now than we used to: we tend to work in teams now, using more creative and flexible work patterns. The old building, with its long hallways and closed-plan layout, could simply not accommodate this new work style.’ An added factor is that the company had set a number of ambitious sustainability targets. Martens: ‘We were eager to move forward with those targets but knew that the old building was holding us back, as it was leaking energy left, right and centre.’

CBRE’s experts to the rescue

All in all, the need to find a new head office had become urgent, and Heineken asked Martens to manage this process – a challenge, as it turns out, he was happy to accept: ‘It seemed like an interesting project to take on, even though my experience with commercial real estate is fairly limited. As a corporate lawyer, I was familiar with the legal and contractual side of transactions but not really with the rest of it, so I wanted to get a team of experts in to support us.’

Martens, explaining why Heineken decided to partner with CBRE: ‘Because they have a solid reputation, and since they offer a comprehensive range of services they’re a “one-stop shop” that can manage the entire process for a client. It keeps things straightforward and prevents miscommunication.’

Long wish list

After going on a ‘reconnaissance mission’ with a CBRE rental consultant to scout out potential locations in the Randstad metropolitan area, the team held a creative brainstorming session to make a wish list of requirements for the new building. Martens: ‘That session was attended by all Heineken stakeholders, as well as by CBRE’s expert team and several external experts. They made sure we stayed focused during the discussions. At the end of the day, we were looking to answer the question: “What requirements do we really want our new building to meet?”

As it turns out, those discussions did lead to a number of new insights. ‘For example, one of the items on our wish list was a roof terrace, but we had to give up on that idea during the session. You see, a roof terrace would be invisible from the street, when in fact that lack of visibility was one of our main problems in the first place. As a socially engaged company we also like to be at the heart of the community, which means a ground-floor location would be better suited than a high-rise building. During our talks, we came up with the idea of combining the corporate head office with a brew pub where the public would be able to pop in for a beer.’

During our talks, we came up with the idea of operating a brew pub out of our head office, where the public would be able to pop in for a beer.
Joost MartensDirector Legal Affairs at Heineken Netherlands

Lorentz building checks all the boxes

There was one building which caught the team’s eye that seemed to hit all the criteria – including impeccable environmental credentials. Martens: ‘That was the Lorentz building in Leiden. It’s a BREEAM-certified new building – which means it’s highly sustainable – as well as having a perfect location right in the middle of the city, facing the central railway station. The first three floors of the building are occupied by offices and one section of the ground floor is used for catering purposes.’

After a discussion on whether Leiden should really become the company’s new home base – some employees expressed a preference for Amsterdam – Heineken made up its mind: ‘The fact that Lorentz checked so many boxes basically clinched it for us.’ Martens asked CBRE to lead the negotiations, with Heineken then signing the lease for the offices and hospitality venue in late 2018.

Strategic planning with CBRE

And that’s when the great transformation began... Martens: ‘We worked with CBRE to develop a workspace plan, based on a survey of employees’ habits and preferences. We were then able to assess how many workstations and hotdesking areas we needed, and what other requirements the building should fulfil. For example, we were looking for a layout that would be conducive to social interaction, allowing employees to mingle freely – especially with people who are not immediate co-workers. That was something the old building in Zoeterwoude did not facilitate.’

Creating the Heineken ‘vibe’

CBRE’s interior design team received clear instructions and set to work. ‘To make sure the office had that distinctive Heineken look and feel, we gave each floor its own theme, based on a particular place that plays a role in our lives and to which we feel attached. The ground floor is a safe, intimate space with a home-like feel, and the first floor has a festival theme, with lots of bright colours and Desperados branding – Desperados is our tequila-flavoured “festival” beer. The second floor has a hospitality theme, with lots of copper tones and brown hues. You’ll also find Heineken’s signature green colour – the official Heineken brand colour – throughout the building.’

Creating support through team decisions

Employees were also involved in designing the interior of the new building. Martens: ‘In any corporate relocation, it’s important to get everyone on board, so we set up a focus group consisting of 40 employees from different departments. CBRE helped us out with the communications.’

In any corporate relocation, it’s important to get everyone on board.
Joost MartensDirector Legal Affairs at Heineken Netherlands

The relocation adventure

In August 2020, the entire Dutch corporate head office relocated from Zoeterwoude to Leiden. Unfortunately, the grand opening the company had scheduled, featuring a performance by a celebrity DJ, had to be cancelled due to Covid. ‘As an alternative, we organized a get-together with everyone directly involved in the project, including the team from CBRE. It was wonderful to have them on our side throughout the process, as they always went the extra mile for us. They deserve a lot of credit for helping to turn the relocation to Lorentz into a success.’

It was wonderful to have CBRE on our side throughout the process, as they always went the extra mile for us.
Joost MartensDirector Legal Affairs at Heineken Netherlands

Establishing effective hybrid working

Successful hybrid working? Then you need balance in your bricks, bytes and behaviour. CBRE can help you with this. For example with Spacer, the first step towards your hybrid workplace strategy.

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