Clean Slate Inspired

It’s no wonder makeover shows are so popular. Who hasn’t dreamt of having the funds and expertise to turn a tired space into a showplace? That dream came true for Providence Health Center, Waco, Texas. With generous resources—about $1.7 million—the center was able to redo its patient kitchen, add a 24-hour upscale food shop and turn its retail servery, the InProv Café, into a destination spot. Robert Pasichnyk, director of nutritional services, felt lucky to oversee the two-year transformation.

“Our existing facilities were 25 years old and were practically duct-taped together,” he jokes. “But we were in the midst of adding a four-floor cardiac tower with 60 beds, and our administrators knew it was time to renovate.”

Pasichnyk and his team were committed to seeing that the renovation was done right to keep the center’s foodservices fresh well into the future. The results have exceeded everyone’s expectations and made the facility’s hospitality venues a draw not only for onsite customers, but the local community, as well. “It really is a showplace,” he says.

Big Picture: A Timeline

The dining room was renovated first, during the first half of 2007. The kitchen, cafeteria and catering services all stayed operational while the dining space was gutted. “We used to have 200 seats, but that included seats in two adjoining classrooms,” says Pasichnyk. “We were always overcrowded.” Now, with 120 additional seats, including beautiful four-tops and booths, everyone has a place to sit. More dramatic is the transformation of a prior eyesore—the dreaded smokers’ patio—into a Zen-like healing garden with a waterfall feature and palms. A wall of glass frames the outdoor scene and lets in natural light.

Stage two of the renovation over the second half of the year was a lot more complicated. Out went the main kitchen that supported all patient feeding for the 240-bed facility and the old, straight-line cafeteria. Luckily, Providence Health Center is affiliated with Providence Park, an assisted living facility down the road. By stepping up production in that kitchen, Providence Health Center was able to feed patients, employees and visitors during this portion of the renovation, which was completed in Jan. 2008.

Each day, staffers carted bulk food for patient meals and retail sales (entrées, soups, sandwiches and salads) over to the main hospital. “We’d tray patient meals out of our auditorium and set up the retail line in one of the classrooms,” explains Pasichnyk. Local vendors augmented retail offerings, as well. “In the new dining room, we set up a series of kiosks run by local restaurants, including Chick-fil-A, Panda Express, Pizza Hut and Subway,” he adds. Between the assisted living facility and local purveyors (and by using all disposables), Pasichnyk and his staff were able to keep food flowing while the construction crew worked its magic.

All About Easy Access

Pasichnyk and his team used the renovation as an opportunity to fix what the department considered real problems in the old cafeteria. “Our guiding principles for the new operation were lots of selection and quick in-and-out access,” he explains. “We took a hard look at where stopgaps slowed service and potentially lost us sales.” This advanced scrutiny resulted in some innovative design elements.

For example, at the grill, customers put in their orders and receive a bar-coded ticket. They’re free to visit other stations to pick up meal accompaniments and a beverage, check out (cashiers scan the bar-coded ticket) and head into the dining room. There they find a grill pick-up window. When their number’s up, they retrieve their order. “Customers used to hang around the grill until their orders were up,” explains Pasichnyk. “Now they can move around and check out, and that’s good for sales.”

Also located in the dining room: All condiments, utensils, napkins, straws, stirrers, coffee creamers, sugars and all other add-ons. They’re all together along one wall of the dining room on what Pasichnyk refers to as the Bits & Pieces Counter. “It just moves everyone out of the servery and into the dining room more quickly.” The counter also features two Follet pellet ice machines because the center’s customers love their chewable ice.

Superb Selections

Moving customers through the café efficiently was doubly critical because the menu choices in InProv Café increased to six scatter stations. The hot entrée area, with Wells hot well units in CounterCraft-fabricated stations (all the café stations are by CounterCraft), offers three entrees, three vegetables and breads everyday. A well-lit, air- curtain merchandiser from RPI (Regal-Pinnacle) is positioned right next to the entrée line so that customers can finish off their meals with bottled beverages, packaged salads, sides and desserts without having to hit any other stations.

Pasichnyk says his design team purposefully separated the salad bar and two-well soup station that come next. “A lot of times, when soup and salad is combined, it gets pretty messy,” he says. “We really wanted to keep the two stations neat and attractive.” That’s why the salad bar is set up with artistically-styled (think Nambé), dual-insulated bowls on a bed of crushed ice. Fresh fruit, lettuces and a huge assortment of salad ingredients—including lots of premium proteins such as shrimp, chicken and ham—let customers create side or entrée salads, which are weighed at check-out. Staffers fill Tom Collins pours with dressings because they are so much neater to apply than dressing from crocks and ladles. The separate, two-soup station is equipped with soup basics: bowls and lids, crackers, spoons and a few packaged condiments. Again, quick, easy access is the goal.

The grill, located directly across from the entrance, is the heart of the operation. It’s equipped with two grills and two fryers from Vulcan, a Traulsen cooler and Alto-Shaam food warmers. Selections here go well beyond the classic burgers and grilled chicken to include hot deli items such as shrimp po’boys, hot ham and cheese hoagies, quesadillas and chicken fried steak. A best seller is the Zoner, ham, turkey, pico de gallo and jalapeno cheese in a calzone-style crust.

The Specialty Bar, a self-serve station, is open three days a week. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, staffers stock the bar with all the fixings for that day’s “special.” That might be assorted chicken wings and sauces, fajitas fixings, a deli spread, Cajun specialties with a shrimp boil, Asian stir fries and sides, and even hot dogs with assorted toppings. On Thursday mornings, the bar is stocked with ingredients for breakfast burritos and then switches Thursday afternoon to become the Afternoon Delight Sundae Bar. Here patrons can customize freshly baked brownies with ice cream and assorted toppings. What makes the Specialty Bar work is the inclusion of Wells food wells that can run hot or cold. “Dual temperatures keep this station completely flexible; it’s equipped to handle what ever special we come up with,” says Pasichnyk. Another grab-and-go case is located by the specialty bar, as well.

The beverage aisle features all the favorites, including coffee from a Douwe Egberts liquid concentrate system, tea and fountain drinks. “We wanted pellet ice makers on top of the fountains in the beverage aisle,” says Pasichnyk. “But the pellet ice was too soft to dispense well enough from our top-feed setup. So we installed Manitowoc cubers on custom stainless Cornelius fountains.” The ice makers on top of the fountains are a huge improvement over the former ice situation. “We used to have to hand-carry and hand-fill top bins with ice from a central cuber,” he says. “It was a challenge to say the least.”

Menu Boards To Order

The stations throughout InProv stay fresh because they’re flexible. In fact, a lot of menu and specials suggestions come from Pasichnyk’s customers and staff; some selections are even named for them. Of course, changing menu boards to keep up with menu changes can prove problematic.

“Ironically, we forgot about menu boards at first,” says Pasichnyk. “But I was at a foodservice technology show and ran into the folks from Epicure Digital. Their programmable boards were the perfect solution for us.”  With placement input from his crew, Pasichnyk installed several of the digital menu boards throughout the café. At the beginning of each month, he inputs all menus and specials via computer.

“The boards change automatically throughout the day,” he says. And the big “greeter board” he had installed at the entrance does a great job of clueing customers into the day’s selections, specials and upcoming events. That in turn helps them make advance decisions and increases throughput. Menu information also goes out via the center’s intranet and is available to the community on the Internet. “All these efforts get the word out; we’re big on marketing.”

Best Bonus: A Baker

Baked goods also get a huge marketing push at Providence, thanks to a wonderful addition to the staff, professional baker Fran Mathews. “Fran worked for Luby’s for 13 years and was looking for the shift, security and benefits a healthcare position could offer. We got really lucky when she joined us.” Mathews works 10:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. and produces such an incredible profusion of confectionary wonders that her goods are boutique business on their own merit (see ToGo’s sidebar). Among her specialties: assorted pies including Boston Cream and Italian Cream, cakes, including fried cheesecake, cookies, muffins, scones, brownies, rolls, breads such as zucchini and banana, cornbread, fruit turnovers—the list goes on.

Mathews has her own dedicated space in the new main kitchen (just behind the 24-hour ToGo’s food shop) that’s equipped for her baking needs. Her area features two Hobart convection ovens, three Hobart mixers, a Cleveland kettle, a four-burner Wolf range and Traulsen reach-in cooler and proofing cabinet. “By giving her an area, she’s able to manage her ingredients and store the special pans, utensils and decorating equipment she requires,” says Pasichnyk. “Business is so good, we’re hoping to hire Fran an assistant baker.”

Patient Dining Improves

The InProv Café and ToGo’s elicit very positive, public reactions from customers, but the complete renovation of the main kitchen behind the scenes has improved patient feeding. “The old kitchen had the longest tray line I’ve ever seen,” laughs Pasichnyk. “And believe it or not, the end where we filled carts was actually opposite of where the carts needed to exit!” Cooks and tray makeup staff could barely see what was happening or what was needed from one end of the kitchen to the other.

The new kitchen services patient dining, the InProv Café and ToGo’s and the cooks and managers have clear sight lines to assess kitchen activity. The meat cooking area is equipped with two Vulcan fryer batteries (eight baskets), two Hobart convection ovens, a US Range range, a Hobart slicer and charbroiler/salamander from Vulcan. In the vegetable prep area, three, double-stack Groen steamers, a Vulcan tilt skillet and Hobart convection ovens and slicer take care of volume production needs. The kitchen produces about 170 meals per meal period on average, but the census hits 200 quite often.

Pasichnyk installed a new Dinex trayline, half the length of the former tray line, all new Dinex serving equipment and STSII Smart-Therm induction base chargers to improve patient meal service. In another inspired flash, Pasichnyk says the department tossed out all of the old, mismatched trays, dishes, lids, cups, bowls and domes that had accumulated over the years and purchased a new line for all foodservices. Dine-in InProv Café customers and patients now eat off the same Dinex blue and gray dinnerware, Providence’s colors, simplifying dishware care, inventory and replacement for the facility.

So many of the inspired ideas that went into Providence’s renovation came from the staff, says Pasichnyk. “Talk about resources,” he says. “We got everybody involved, employees, supervisors, administrators.” Everyone had a hand in making the new design work. And it’s working beautifully.


ToGo’s, Providence’s 24/7 Food Shop

Picture the first late-shift employees as they saw the welcoming lights and smelled the savory aromas of ToGo’s, the new 24-hour takeout shop situated right off Providence Health Center’s main entrance. Before the renovation, late night dining consisted of plastic wrapped sandwiches, a bag of chips and soda from the vending machine.

Today, customers throughout the day and night can buy fresh toasted sandwiches, hot pizzas, burritos and breakfast tacos. Or they can choose from a huge selection of just-out-of-the-oven muffins, cakes, scones, cookies and more from Providence’s own professional baker, Fran Mathews. Her baked goods and desserts are so delicious, the department has launched a cake order business for employees and customers. Through intranet and Internet advertisements, employees will be able to order and charge cakes to their in-house, badge-activated accounts and pick them up in ToGo’s.

“Departments already order pizzas and some customers pick them up on their way home, so it’s a natural extension to offer desserts, too,” says Robert Pasichnyk, director of nutritional services.

To turn out hot, fresh food all day and night, ToGo’s is equipped with a Lincoln Impinger oven, the MVP of equipment, according to Pasichnyk. “We rely on it for our very successful pizza program as well as hot sandwiches and breakfast tacos.” Coffee is another big seller at ToGo’s and Pasichnyk went gourmet for a premium cup. “We get a special blend roasted just for us from Don Noe of Metro Coffee,” explains Pasichnyk. “We brew it and sell it by the ½-lb. bag.” Coffee is ground and brewed on Bunn equipment. A Nuova Simonelli automatic grinder/espresso maker is used for the espresso line of coffees.

In addition to pizza and hot sandwiches, ToGo’s serves a hot entrée meal around midnight, but customers can get all sorts of cold sandwiches and salads to go from a grab-and-go display, as well.


Providence Health Center, Waco, Texas

New and renovated operation(s):

InProv Café, ToGo’s and main patient kitchen.

Date opened: Feb. 2008

Cost of renovation: $1,727,427

No. of beds: 240 licensed

No. of retail seats: 320

Retail hours of operation:

InProv Café: breakfast, 6:30-9:30 a.m., lunch, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; dinner 5-7 p.m.

ToGo’s, 24 hours

Station sampler: Hot entrees, Salads, Soups, Grill, Specialty Bar, Grab and Go,  

Director of Nutrition Services: Robert Pasichnyk

Architect: Grant Dudley, RBDR Architects, PLLC

Food Facilities Design Consultant: H.G. Rice & Company

Interior Designer:  Norma J. Perkins

Fabricator: Pasco Brokerage, Inc.

Engineer: The Rogers Company, RWB


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