Foodservice Equipment Reports
Kitchen Design

DESIGN: View Finder

KEYWORDS hhsi station weiss
A total overhaul of the 5,875 sq. ft. servery on the fifth floor of Horizon Healthcare Services, Inc.’s (HHSI) headquarters might seem like a foodservice designer’s dream. But there’s always a catch. In this case, it was two long walls of panoramic windows, opening out onto the vista of downtown Newark, N.J. The challenge: how to keep the view and servery, too? 

“The existing facility was at least 20 years old,” recalls Elite Studio e Executive V.P. Ivan Weiss, who headed up the HHSI renovation in conjunction with foodservice operator Eurest Dining, a division of Compass Group. Layout-wise, the old servery was divided by walls surrounding its various stations. “It’s a large footprint, but when you walked in, you couldn't see the windows, and you couldn't see all the stations at once,” Weiss says. “It was almost like a maze.”

The equipment showed its age with its institutional-style hot wells, cold wells and sneeze guards. “It was a scoop-and-serve operation with lots of stainless and Formica,” Weiss continues. “Eurest added several action stations when it took over operations in 2011, but the servery lacked any really modern foodservice technology.” 

Participation was way down, too. Employees could—and did—leave the building for nearby lunch options.

The Re-View Process

HHSI and Eurest’s goals for the renovation were simple: better customer experience and healthier food offerings. 

“Our objective with the new cafe was not only to improve the customer experience but also enable HHSI’s ‘Journey To Health’ employee initiative,” Eurest Operations V.P. Jim Colombaris says. 

The Elite Studio e design team expanded the goals. 

“We aimed to modernize the space, and make it more efficient and versatile from a culinary standpoint,” Weiss says. “We also wanted to freshen up the food offerings by adding variety and capitalizing on new trends. And finally, we wanted to maximize the space – take advantage of the panoramic view, the windows, and really open it up.”

The Elite Studio e Design team, in addition to Ivan, included Aaron Weiss, assistant v.p. in charge of design and installation; and Chad Weiss, project manager. (Ivan and Aaron are cousins, and Chad happens to have the same name.) From Eurest and HHSI, key people included Eurest’s Colombaris and HHSI Foodservice Director Will Alfieri. 

Planning commenced in late 2011, construction began in May ’12, and the servery opened 10  months later in October.

“Having the design team involved in build-out ensured that all details were done properly, with no substitutions and no shortcuts,” Colombaris says. “From our client’s perspective, there was only one contract from start to finish to deal with. And from our perspective, it was a seamless transition from concept to final execution.” 

A View To Please

The resulting HHSI Riverside Cafe beautifully highlights on-the-spot food production in a setting that maximizes space, light and cleanliness.

For starters, about three-quarters of food is now prepped and prepared in the servery in full view of guests, leaving the support kitchen for mainly for soup production and catering. The Cafe’s stations feature equipment flexible enough to produce new and varied menus as food trends evolve. And the servery’s overall design combines a contemporary minimalist look (stainless steel panels, white terrazo floors and white quartz counters) with the bounty of food—tied together by a color-changing neon-lit soffit reflecting the line of the stations below. And most of all, the wall-to-wall windows clearly visible behind the stations provide an ever-changing backdrop for the culinary theater. 

Reaction to the new servery was immediate and positive. “We’re averaging about 41% participation at breakfast and 47% for lunch, up about 5% compared with the old servery,” Colombaris says.

From a design standpoint, taking full advantage of the servery’s windowed walls required that “we open up sight lines and keep all the stations low and arranged around the perimeter in order to take advantage of natural light and open the view,” Weiss says. “The servery feels about four times larger than before.” 

Designing in adequate food storage was a key consideration in maintaining the servery’s low profile look. “We used lots of undercounter hot and cold storage,” Weiss says. “The extra storage saves staff from running all the way back to the kitchen during peak times.”

The low-profile storage solution was carried over on the customer side, too. For example, shelves holding disposable plates and bowls are inset into the fronts of the Salad and Soup stations. 

The Cafe’s minimalist design also helps keep stations clean. Nearly all feature rectangular hot or cold units, inset into the white quartz countertops. The pans are easy to swap in and out, and they can all be transported and stored on identical racks. “With the ‘kitchen forward’ approach, flexibility is key,” Weiss says. “All concepts allow for trend changes in the future, and easy integration with the existing kitchen.”

One construction challenge came with the Action station, equipped with high-wattage induction cookers, a mobile heated cabinet, and drop-in hot and cold pans. “The hoods had to be in front so that the cooks would face forward toward guests,” Weiss says. The solution was to install custom fab, curved stainless steel covers in front of the rectangular hoods in order to match the curve of the counters below. “Ensuring that counter, soffits, hoods and hood fascia all aligned perfectly required a lot of coordination with the entire project team,” Weiss says.

The Pizza/Pasta station, anchored by a stone-hearth, gas-fired oven posed a logistical challenge during construction. “The stone-hearth pizza oven was too large for the freight elevator,” Weiss says. “We worked with the manufacturer to have the oven shipped here in pieces and then assembled it on site with the help of a special crane.”

Station Preview

Riverside Cafe guests can take in the entire space at a glance. The Cafe’s food stations, all proven winners at Eurest corporate accounts, include the Salad Bar, Soup/Flex, Deli, Action, Global, Grill, Pizza/Pasta and Whole+Sum,  a healthy food concept made up of three mix-and-match components, and no complete dish adds up to more than 500 calories.

“We offer a lot more ‘theater’ cooking now,” Colombaris says. The existing support kitchen, which under the previous set-up was used to prep and produce more than half of the food offerings, now is mainly responsible for soups and traditional entrée production, catering orders and meals for the child development center.

Standing at the entrance, the immediate focal point is the freestanding Salad Bar and its matching-shape “skylight” above. To the left of the entrance, along the servery’s only solid wall, are the Whole+Sum (chef’s table), Pizza/Pasta and Grill stations. Next, set against a backdrop of tall windows, comes the Global and Action stations, the Deli curving around the far corner and then the Soup/Flex stations. The Beverage station is positioned conveniently near three POS stands. 

Flat-screen monitors mounted above and in front of each station display menus, food photography, nutritional details and on occasion, communications from HHSI.

Four Corners Cafe

Augmenting food and caffeination outlets for HHSI employees is a coffee bar and quick-service sandwich outlet called Four Corners Cafe. The mini-cafe, located next to the elevators in the lobby near Riverside (the lobby is on an upper floor), covers about 1,500 sq. ft., including a seating area. 

“The clients wanted the coffee bar to look like part of the lobby rather than, say, a Starbucks kiosk,” Weiss says. “Hanging elements and half-walls were used to define its space and house its equipment. And it has the same bright, eye-catching lighting treatment as the salad bar inside.”

The coffee bar features a well-rounded menu—grab-and-go sandwiches, pastries, cookies and snacks, plus the full gamut of specialty coffees, blended drinks and teas. The location is equipped with undercounter refrigeration, a speed oven, ice machine, blenders as well as espresso machines and coffee brewers. 

A Look Ahead

While the HHSI Riverside Cafe, with its panoramic setting, and the Four Corners Cafe are unique to the Newark building, the insurance company is using the renovated foodservice operation as a Journey To Health showcase to share its initiatives with employees systemwide.


MENU/SEGMENT: Corporate dining
LOCATION: Newark, N.J.
FOODSERVICE OPERATOR: Eurest Dining Services, a division of Compass Group
SERVERY SIZE: 5,875 sq. ft.
COFFEE BAR SIZE: 1,500 sq. ft. (includes seating)
HOURS OF OPERATION: Servery, 7 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.; Coffee bar, 7:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
PROJECT DESIGN & MANAGEMENT: Elite Studio e, Farmingdale, N.Y.
ARCHITECT: Gensler, New York

HHSI Equipment

Whole + Sum
Continental pizza prep refrigerator
Hatco pass-thru heated holding cabinet
Piper drop-in thermal shelves
Regal Pinnacle air screen merchandiser, refrigerated drawers
TurboChef speed oven
Wells drop-in cold pans 

Piper drop-in thermal shelves
Wells drop-in hot/cold pans
Wood Stone pizza oven

Blodgett combi oven
Continental refrigerated equipment stand
Everpure water filter system
Piper drop-in thermal shelves
Pitco fryers, pasta cooker
Southbend countertop charbroiler, countertop griddle 

Continental undercounter refrigerator
CookTek induction cookers
Metro undercounter mobile heated cabinet
Vollrath drop-in cold wells
Wells drop-in hot/cold pans

Continental undercounter refrigerator
Metro undercounter mobile heated cabinet
Piper drop-in thermal shelf
Wells drop-in hot/cold pans 

Alto-Shaam countertop carving stations
Berkel food slicers
Continental refrigerated sandwich prep unit
Continental undercounter refrigerators
Piper drop-in thermal shelves
Regal Pinnacle refrigerated deli cases
Star panini presses
TurboChef speed ovens

Salad Bar
Hatco conveyor toasters
Wells drop-in cold pans

Continental undercounter refrigerator
John Boos maple cutting boards
Metro undercounter mobile heated cabinet
Wells drop-in hot/cold pans, soup wells

Everpure water filter system
Fetco coffee brewers & thermal dispensers
Follett ice/beverage dispensers
Follett undercounter ice makers
Regal Pinnacle air screen merchandisers

Coffee Bar
Continental undercounter refrigerator
Fetco coffee brewers & thermal dispensers
Hoshizaki undercounter ice cuber with bin
Schaerer USA espresso machine
TurboChef speed oven
Waring blenders 

BSI LLC X-guard with heat & lights
CaptiveAire exhaust hoods

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