Lighter, Brighter, Better
Sometimes adapting hospital foodservice to the facility’s needs over the course of time is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle with pieces from different puzzles. Such was the case at Strong Memorial Hospital, part of the University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, N.Y. The 1975 facility had grown to 2,500 employees by 1999, when current Director of Food & Nutrition Services Al Caldiero came on board.
“Today, we have around 12,000 employees in the medical center. We’ve become a big player in the area,” Caldiero says.
Despite the dramatic growth over the years, no changes were made to the original footprint of Strong’s cafeteria, and customers—visitors, med students and staff—were constantly crisscrossing paths and waiting in lines to access food offerings.
With stations added through the years, “we had no throughput or logical flow at all, and we simply couldn’t handle the volume of business. The cafeteria was always too crowded,” Caldiero explains.
“Ceilings were low, the space was dark, and sightlines were completely blocked by mismatched food stations that were centered in the space,” adds Georgie Shockey, principal, Ruck-Shockey Associates, The Woodlands, Texas, who provided management advisory consulting on the project. She worked with the client as well as foodservice facilities consultant/designer John Egnor, principal, JEM Associates, Pleasantville, N.J. “When you walked in the door of old cafeteria, you couldn’t see much beyond the first food counter to know what your options were.”
The medical center first began looking at the possibility of renovating Strong’s cafeteria in 2002, but it wasn’t until 2010 that the design phase got underway. The $6 million project was completed two years later under the combined expertise of Shockey, Egnor and Dave Beinetti, AIA, president, SWBR Architects, and DiMarco Constructors LLC, both headquartered in Rochester. They worked with direction from clients Caldiero and Project Manager Stewart Leffler, head of campus planning, design & construction management.
To dramatically improve the overall look and feel of the cafeteria and give an illusion of greater spaciousness, the renovation plans called for raising the ceilings where possible, moving walls and changing the entrance from propped-open, solid doors to a dramatic, 24-ft. wall of glass with a large glass door that immediately attracts the attention of passersby. The hospital even hired a lighting designer who, with creative use of LED uplighting, undercounter lighting and warm overhead fixtures, transformed what was a dark, dingy space interspersed with garish fluorescents into a warm and inviting foodservice environment.
Egnor, who was up against a lot of restrictions, including limited square footage, huge support columns throughout the space and low ceilings, was able to expand the cramped servery and maximize the footprint with several smart design moves. His efforts, along with Beinetti’s, would take foodservice offerings from five stations in the old café to 10 in the new.
Egnor moved a wall between the servery and a small prep kitchen back 20 ft. from where it was, bringing most of the kitchen cookline into view from the servery. “Today, what sets the ambience of foodservice is the interaction between the chefs and the customers,” Egnor says. Seeing into the kitchen plays into this interaction, and most of the food stations include to-order service, as well. This move allowed him to situate several food stations in the space that would not have fit with the old wall in place.
Despite not being able to change the overall footprint, Egnor’s efficient use of the perimeter walls and island stations opened the space and sightlines dramatically, putting all 10 stations in easy view at the entry.
“We brought the grill, sauté and hot-food preparation stations out front. We played with several designs to fit the budget, and we were able to meet our goal of creating more space and creating more options for food,” Egnor says.
Bringing cooking stations into the servery required special attention to ventilation. “There was a fair amount of engineering between the designer, the engineer and the architect to figure out where new hoods could go,” Shockey says.
Architect Beinetti adds, “The servery was located under a very large mechanical level overhead. We had to be creative in the design and aggressively manage the electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems. We spent a lot of time trying to understand what we could and couldn’t do.” The challenge turned out to be a blessing, he says. “We had to simplify plans and, in the end, less was better.”
But the idea of “less” is subjective. “We doubled our menu offerings and added a café express online ordering system so meals can be picked up at a designated time or—for a small price—can be delivered,” Caldiero says.
The new lineup of food offerings includes the Creation Station, where a chef prepares custom sautéed specials on induction tops for each customer; Deli, serving up traditional deli sandwiches that can be served cold or hot from a fast-cook oven; and Grill, serving the popular standards along with panini sandwiches from a microwave-assisted panini press.
Across the servery at Pizza, customers can help themselves to any of three styles of pizza kept at temperature on built-in hot tops, as well as flat breads, calzones and stromboli specials. Next to Pizza, chefs at the Pasta station will sauté any combination of four pasta choices—including one glutenfree version—three sauces, three meats and four different vegetable toppings. Homestyle features traditional comfort foods and healthy choices daily along with rotisserie chicken. “We do whole and half chickens on an impinger rotisserie that does a 21/2- to 3- lb. bird in 45 minutes. The University of Rochester medical students especially love them. They’re the best deal on campus because you can get a whole bird for $5.95,” Caldiero says.
In the center of the servery are the Salad Bar island and the Fresh Fruit/Dessert/Coffee island. The design team cleverly and seamlessly incorporated three huge structural columns into the islands, tiling them to complement the counter décor. Grab-and-go selections are available throughout the servery, not only at a specific grab-and-go station, but in cold and ambient cases at other stations as well.
Caldiero says the ambiance, visibility and increase in selections has had a huge impact on business. “We’ve seen a 20% increase in sales.”
The end result delivered a great looking space and, after the opening, Shockey’s additional role was to provide a fresh pair of eyes to ensure the operational policies kept the new café looking fresh and running seamlessly.
She says operators should ask such questions as: “How do we camouflage moving soiled items from the line to the back of the house? Do we have the right equipment, such as bus pans and attractive utensils? Are food labels descriptive and professional in appearance? Is décor tasteful? How is trash handled?”
“Staff members always need to be reminded to keep stations clean and stocked, and the operators need to invest in the smallwares and support equipment that maintain the professional look,” she explains. “The devil is in the details.” Now, Strong Memorial Hospital is able to offer its visitors and staff an exceptional in-house foodservice facility in which to take a break from the stresses of the day, and its foodservice employees have a more organized way to deliver great customer service.
Strong Memorial Hospital/University of Rochester Medical Center
No. of Beds: 760
No. of Seats in Cafe: 600
Hours of Operation: 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m., 1:30 a.m.-3:30 a.m., 7 days/week
Average Check: $4.50
Cost of Project: $6 million
Annual Sales: $4 million
Director of Food & Nutrition Services: Alfonse (Al) Caldiero
Project Manager: Stewart Leffler, Campus Planning, Design & Construction Management
Foodservice Facility Design Consultant: John Egnor, principal, JEM Associates, Pleasantville, N.J.
Management Advisory Services Consultant: Georgie Shockey, principal, Ruck-Shockey Associates, The Woodlands, Texas
Architect: David Beinetti, AIA, SWBR Architects, Rochester, N.Y.
Contractor: DiMarco Constructors LLC, Rochester, N.Y.
CookTek/Middleby induction cookers
Atlas Metal drop-in hot/cold wells
Continental prep refrigs., reach-in refrig. sandwich prep table
Hobart/ITW FEG slicers
Alto-Shaam mobile warming/holding cabinets, drop-in hot wells
TurboChef/Middleby microwave/convection combi oven
Autofry countertop fryer
Continental prep refrig., freezer base, undercounter refrig.
Electrolux high-speed panini presses
Garland/Manitowoc electric griddle
RPI refrig. drop-in display case
Hatco heated display case
Grab N Go
RPI refrig. merchandiser, refrig. cases
Continental reach-in freezers
Salad Bar/Fruit Bar
Southern Stainless well airscreens
Structural Concepts self-service bakery case
Atlas Metal drop-in frost top
Hatco heated stone shelves
John Boos wood-top table
Lincoln/Manitowoc double conveyor oven
Continental pizza-prep refrig.
Metro proofer cabinet
Continental undercounter refrigs.
Atlas Metal drop-in unit
Alto-Shaam drop-in hot wells
CookTek/Middleby induction cookers
Homestyle Station/Soup Island
Hatco heated display shelves
Atlas Metal drop-in hot well
Continental pass-thru refrig., undercounter refrigs.
Alto-Shaam warming/holding cabinets
Wells/Middleby drop-in soup wells
Penn Refrigeration walk-in cooler
New Age Industrial pan racks
Continental reach-in freezers
Frymaster/Manitowoc electric fryer battery
Cleveland Range/Manitowoc pressureless steamer
Alto-Shaam electric rotisserie
Vulcan/ITW FEG convection oven
American Panel blast chiller/freezer
Hobart/ITW FEG slicers
Follett ice bin
Scotsman/Ali Group ice maker
Metro shelving, mobile cart
Delfield/Manitowoc tray dispensers
Hatco conveyor toaster
Hobart/ITW FEG flight-type dishmachine
T&S Brass hose reel
Traycon tray conveyor w/accumulator
RPI custom counters (all stations)
BSI foodshields/heat lamps
Advance Tabco sinks, work tables
3M water filtration