Go With The Flow
To stay competitive in a high-end Dallas zip code, Medical City Dallas Hospital, part of HCA North Texas, completely remodeled its 30-year-old cafeteria. Prior to renovations, guests—many of whom are hospital employees on short, 30-min. lunch breaks—ran into bottlenecks in the servery. The jams were the result of locating popular serving stations too close together and not providing enough cashiers. Poor lighting and a dated mauve-and-teal color scheme made the dining room less inviting than it could be.
Hospital administrators hired local architecture and design firm Corgan to create a retail dining space with a more efficient flow (but without expanding the footprint) and a modern look, one that paired well with other campus renovations.
Corgan turned to Rodney Worrell, President and Principal-in-Charge, Worrell Design Group, Houston, for the foodservice consulting portion of the project. Worrell worked closely with Mary Ann Moser, RD, Division Director, Food & Nutrition Services, North Texas Central Supply Chain, Parallon Supply Chain Solutions, who was the foodservice department’s director for 16 years, up until January 2016, two months before the project was complete.
“Our goals were to improve the flow and to speed up the lines, which we did by spreading out the serving stations and increasing the number of cashier stations from three to four,” says Moser, noting that campus growth over the years had increased traffic through the 7,650-sq.-ft. servery. “One reason the flow didn’t work in the original cafeteria was because of where the entrances and exits were situated; one entrance was right in front of the grill and the other entrance was too close to the cashiers.”
The architecture team responded by removing walls separating the servery and dining room to reorganize entrance and exit points and, overall, create a more open, welcoming space.
To relieve bottlenecks inside the servery, the foodservice design team thoughtfully placed serving platforms—and even added or expanded a few—up and down the length of the long, narrow floorplan. “By having staff-served stations on the righthand side and then self-serve stations flush against the wall on the left-hand side, the servery has reasonably good customer circulation from the entrance, along the length, and back out,” Worrell says. “At one time, earlier in the design process, we had the staff-served Deli on the left side, but later determined it intruded too far into the space.”
Entering the servery, guests move toward the expanded Grille, then stop at one of several Grab-N-Go areas, followed by Hot Entrées, an improved Pizza bar, now serving flatbreads and paninis, and a totally new Deli with fresh, made-to-order sandwiches. Existing roll-thru cabinets enable employees to transfer ingredients and bulk-prepared menu items from the back-of-house kitchen (not part of this project) and into the platforms.
“Cooks bake-off pizza in an Ovention oven, which was a client request,” Worrell says. “They want to be at the forefront of not only capturing speed but also product quality. And the oven operates without a hood.” Previously, the servery had a lackluster pizza program with a slower countertop conveyor oven.
Farthest from the entrance, at the top of the floorplan, guests grab beverages by reaching into what is actually a large walk-in cooler with five glass front doors—similar to a c-store set-up. Designers specified the walk-in cooler so employees could stock sliding shelves from behind, out of customers’ way. As an added bonus, the walk-in offers cold storage space for case goods.
Moving back down the other side of the servery toward the entrance, guests choose from a variety of hot and cold beverages, smoothies and desserts from selfserve stations. Before renovations, guests grabbed beverages from a tall machine on a bulky island beverage counter in front of the grill. By pushing the dispensers to the far wall, designers relieved congestion and provided cleaner sightlines to the grill.
In the servery’s center, which was previously underused, designers added two oval grab-and-go refrigerated merchandisers, important for hospital employees in a rush. “A lot of aspects of the redesign were geared toward customer convenience, with plenty of grab-and-go cases throughout,” Worrell says. The merchandisers hold fresh whole fruit, as well as prepackaged salads and sandwiches—both assembled in the back kitchen.
Also in the center, a U-shaped, self-serve Salad/Soup counter is a focal point. “Before, the salad bar was a dual-sided, straight-line counter and employees had to reach over customers to stock ingredients,” Moser says. The U-shaped counter allows employees to fill cold pans (now refrigerated instead of ice-chilled) from inside the counter without interrupting guests. Designers specified undercounter refrigerators to store ingredients. The counter’s U-shape also gives the department the flexibility to occasionally offer a chef-prepared cobb salad, for example. At one time, designers had an Action Station in the plan but it was later sacrificed for space.
Nearby the Salad/Soup station, a load-bearing pillar created a design challenge. Designers tried to incorporate the pillar into the salad bar, but they determined that moving the salad bar to do so would interfere with the overall traffic flow. In the end, they turned the stand-alone pillar into a functional display, outfitting it with racks for water bottles.
Throughout the servery, designers equipped each serving station with flexible food shields and custom counters, sporting Corian tops and laminate fronts with recesses to hold trays and disposable servingware.
When entering the remodeled dining room, guests immediately notice a difference. The architecture team shifted the entrance so, instead of first seeing a tray drop-off area, visitors view the open dining room, cashier stations and further in, the servery. Worrell says creating a more open, visible connectivity between the servery and dining area was important to the success of the project.
Moser’s favorite aspect of the project was how the team was able to add additional seating in the dining room. The room now seats 194-plus, up from about 148. “It’s not a very big dining room for the size of the facility,” she says. “We added seating in front of the windows to maximize space. Just replacing the furniture alone made a difference because the original tables and chairs were falling apart.” She also appreciates the addition of a janitor’s closet in the dining room for easy access to cleaning supplies.
“We wanted to create a more appealing, inviting space where staff members could actually sit and relax during their lunch; we didn’t want it to look like a traditional hospital cafeteria,” she adds. To accomplish this goal, the team added a variety of seating options, including booths, high-bar seating and banquettes. They switched out old lighting for upscale chandeliers in the middle of the room, added electrical outlets at each booth, flat-screen televisions and bright, modern fabrics and colors.
Moser notes, throughout the project, the design team worked closely with the hospital’s property management company. (MCDH leases the tower.) “One unique project challenge was ensuring that we selected fabrics, finishes and flooring that blended with renovations throughout the rest of campus,” she says. “It needed to all be timeless, not trendy.” Through regular communication, including weekly meetings at the beginning of the design process, the teams were able to decide on materials that worked well with the rest of the property.
“We all worked together and came up with what we felt we needed for our facility, as far as menu concepts, a better flow, and to just bring it up to the 21st century,” Moser says. “The transformation was fabulous.”
MEDICAL CITY DALLAS HOSPITAL
No. of Hospital Beds: 796
Type of Facility: Retail Dining
Opened: March 2016
Hours of Operation: Open 7 days a week, 6:45 a.m. – 7 p.m. (closed between meal periods)
Stations: Grille, Hot Entrées, Pizza, Deli, Beverages/Desserts, Grab-N-Go, Salad/Soup
Foodservice Consultants: Rodney Worrell, President and Principal- in-Charge; Nestor Montoya, CAD; Connie McCarn, Spec Writer; Worrell Design Group, Dallas and Houston
MCDH Team: Terry Brown, RD, LD, Director, Food, Nutrition and Conference Center Services; James Gosnell, MPM, BCE, PMP, Director of Project Management; Mary Ann Moser, RD, Division Director, Food & Nutrition Services, North Texas Central Supply Chain, Parallon Supply Chain Solutions
Architects/Interior Design: Tammy Testa, Senior Associate; Mario Salinas, Architectural Intern, Corgan, Dallas
Dealer: Michael Ewart, Singer Equipment Co., Elverson, Pa.
Hatco undercounter mobile heated carts, heated display slide, drop-in hot wells
Conveyor toaster (existing)
True undercounter refrigs., refrig. equipment stand
Traulsen/ITW FEG reach-in freezer
Frymaster/Manitowoc double fryer, dump station
Vulcan/ITW FEG griddle, charbroiler
Gaylord exhaust hood (existing)
Hatco undercounter heated cabinets, drop-in hot wells
Roll-thru heated cabinets (existing)
Mobile pan racks (existing)
Ovention Matchbox oven
Star/Middleby panini press
True pizza-make refrig., pizza-oven stand, undercounter refrigs.
Hatco pizza display warmer, heat lamps
Hatco drop-in cold pans
Roll-thru refrig. (existing)
Mobile pan racks (existing)
Thermo-Kool/Mid-South Ind. beverage cooler
New Age Industrial dunnage racks