Why would people put coffee down as their #1 priority over, say, increased autonomy or mastery? My take is this: it's what is at the center of the relationship between the director and their employees. A better way to say this might be that it's what is at the center of a relationship between an an organization and its employees. Here's another frame: there is a story that we are living in about what it means to be in relationship with our superiors, or the organization we work for. One way to look at that story: we are in a transactional relationship.
When we are in a transaction mindset, we are always in a negotiation. If I give you a coffee maker, will you do your jobs just a little better? Will you give a higher score on the survey next time? That's the deal that the director was making.