Renovation Rx

The 35-year-old cook-serve kitchen, straight-line cafeteria and catering sites scattered throughout Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, Dallas, were workable, but really not optimal, in serving the needs of the 1960s-era pediatric orthopedics facility.

The hospital is part of the Masons’ organization, so young patients receive free treatment. “Over the years, the Masons and local philanthropists have been providing the money for operations,” explains Kim Oberman, director of dietary. The hospital hosts its philanthropic supporters at many catered events and professionals attend educational sessions and meetings that often require foodservice. As a result, plans for a centralized conference center (to complement an already heavily used auditorium) carried as much weight as plans to redo the 35-year-old main kitchen, cafeteria and dining room.

In 2005, the hospital board approved the $25-million budget (funded through donations) required to renovate the entire dietary department. The resulting spaces, which opened in August 2009, not only optimize, but exceed the foodservice needs and expectations of the staff, visitors and young patients. The project impresses not because the end result is as functional as it is bright and beautiful, but because the extensive renovation was completed without shutting down foodservices for even one day over the course of two years.

Plenty of Pre-Planning

With budget approval, Oberman began working with Dallas-based HKS Architects, who brought in Eli Osatinski, president, Systems Design International (SDI), Dallas, to help plan the foodservice facility elements of the renovation. Over the course of three years, the key parties planned construction in phases so that each area incorporated all the features the department wanted while allowing it to continue meal service and catering uninterrupted. 

In the first phase, in the kitchen, construction workers from The Beck Group, Dallas, renovated the volume production area and changed the old tray line into a room service short-order line. Phase one also included redoing a large storage room with InterMetro high density shelving, which left room to build in an ingredient room, something the department never had before.

“Being able to assemble the proper ingredients in the proper amounts has really helped us to manage our inventory and improved the consistency of the dishes we make,” Oberman says. Thermo-Kool walk-ins in the new volume production area ensure that everything issued from that ingredient room to the production area can be held cold, as well. A Rational combi oven, Vulcan steamers, kettles and ovens, and Hobart mixers are just a few of the key pieces of volume production equipment.

Switch To Room Service

The switch from the tray line to short-order room service was pretty simple, according to Oberman. “We only have 53 or so in our in-patient census; we’re a mostly out-patient facility,” she says. “From October 2008 to January 2009, we used the new room service line as our cook-serve tray line, but when the CBORD room service software went live in January, we started to use the line as it was meant to be.”

Comprised of a hot and cold zone, the hot zone is equipped with a griddle and chargrill from Vulcan, with drawer refrigerators below, and a Vulcan fryer. Across from this cook line, the crew installed a Wells steam table. The cold zone comprises a cold prep table fabricated by Rest Services–and additional under-counter cold storage–for sandwich and salad prep. For hot foods, tray assemblers use a Smart Therm II induction base-warming unit. And the department traded in large, heavy tray delivery carts for several, lighter, 10-tray room service carts, also from Dinex. 

“In the kitchen, we didn’t really get more space, but Eli’s new design just made much smarter and more efficient use of it,” Oberman says.

Phase Two

Smarter and more efficient use meant freeing up space for some exceptional new kitchen features. For example, Osatinski turned one wall of the kitchen into a dedicated bakery for Venus DeJesus, Scottish Rite’s professional baker. “He’s really an artist,” Osatinski says. “It made sense to provide him with an area to showcase his talents.”

The bakery includes a convection rack oven from Vulcan, 20- and 60-qt. Hobart mixers, 4-burner Vulcan range top and steam-jacketed kettle, Amana microwave, Erika dough cutter, LBC proofer and fabricated marble work top and cold prep table, along with cold and dry storage.

“Venus creates all kinds of wonderful signature items, including cookies and cakes, and does beautiful chocolate work,” Osatinski explains. The bakery creations go along way with the young patients and their families and play a role in the hospital’s fundraising endeavors.

Another redesigned section of the kitchen is the dishroom. Welcome additions to the room include a fabricated pass-through cart wash with hoses, new Hobart dishmachine, and a PowerSoak pot sink. A rotating tray accumulator from National Conveyor Corp. is built into the wall between the dishroom and the tray drop-off in the dining room.

Finally, the HKS/SDI team designated spaces for a new office/call center and a dedicated catering kitchen, but what they designed <I>in between<I> the office and catering kitchen is one of Oberman’s favorite elements in the new design.

“Right in the middle of the kitchen, they gave us a huge service elevator,” she explains. “And it has radically improved the logistics of our entire operation.

Face “Lift”

The plans called for a large, rear- and front-opening service elevator in a very strategic spot. One floor below the kitchen, the elevator descends and opens conveniently to the loading dock (which itself was redesigned so that delivery trucks can back straight in rather than jack-knifing around a 90° corner). The lower level also includes storage for nonfood supplies.

Deliveries travel up to the kitchen where employees can unload them directly into kitchen storage. Additionally, the elevator abuts the catering kitchen. All the food produced for the hospital’s myriad events cart right into the elevator where they travel up one more floor to the heart of the brand new, state-of-the-art conference center.

The center, which took about a third of the budget to create, has its own staging kitchen and features the auditorium, two large and two small conference rooms, a small theater, two classrooms, three private dining rooms, a reception area and new entrance lobby.

“I love our service elevator,” Oberman says. “Prior to our renovation, we had to use public elevators to unload deliveries, deliver meals, return soiled carts and to run catering throughout the hospital to assorted event locations.” It was not an ideal situation, she says. “Now it’s all done behind the scenes and everything is centralized.”

Color Explosion

The new retail café Osatinski designed during phase two of the renovation is anything but “behind the scenes.” Inspired by the Crayola crayon, the new multi-station servery is finished in a palette of bold, crayon-color-inspired finishes.

“We really took time to think about who the customers would be,” Osatinski explains. “We’re talking lots of children with their families, many in wheelchairs, on crutches or pushed in baby carriages.” For that reason, he says, aisles are especially wide and all the corners and counters are rounded.

In fact, along with color, curves and fluid shapes define every aspect of the servery, which now boasts a host of themed cooking platforms. “Our old café was really very dated; the space was extremely cramped and, as a straight-line setup, most customers had to wait in line, no matter what they were ordering,” Oberman explains. “In the new servery, visitors, employees and patients can go straight to the station they want, and there are plenty from which to choose.”

Platforms include The Deli with sandwich makeup equipment and a Lang PaneBella panini grill. All the cold cuts, cheeses, deli salads and more are displayed in curved, Euro-style Oscartielle display cases. The brand’s curved cases are used throughout the servery, in fact.

The Pizza & Pasta station showcases a blue-tile-encased Wood Stone pizza oven. Hatco in-counter warmers keep the pizzas warm on display. Anvil pasta cookers and an ingredient rail support Cook-Tek induction tops so that cooks can pan sauté custom pasta dishes.

Adjacent to Pizza & Pasta is a small Chef’s Choice counter where servers dish up classic hot entrees and comfort foods. Behind this area Osatinski added a few pieces of equipment to produce American grill items, eggs and breakfast meats in the morning and burgers, grilled cheese and the like, later. They include a grill, fryer and undercounter cold drawers from Imperial.

The area actually called The Grill is a display cooking showcase with a Town Mongolian grill in the center and wok range from Imperial along the back wall. Customers choose displayed ingredients and sauces, which are held cold, and cooks grill or stir-fry them to order.

In the center of the servery, builders fabricated a soup and salad bar that works in three modes. “Employees can stand in the middle of the salad bar, it’s a hollow oval,” Osatinski explains. “From there they can replenish salad bar bins from under counter refrigerators.” Additionally, the bar features a counter station where a chef can create custom salads to-order on special days as well as a display case where ready-made salads await the grab-and-go crowd.

Highlights of the beverage station along one wall include a counter-mount soda fountain and a remote Follet ice system that feeds ice to the fountain through a tube. “The fountain allows us to do away with cans, and the ice system is a great upgrade,” Oberman says. The department used to have to fill ice bins from a remote cuber, she explains.  

The servery includes a few grab-and-go cases from RPI, with Eliason curtains for overnight security and energy conservation. They display ready-made sandwiches, salads and sides as well as bottled specialty beverages.

“In every single platform in the café we designed an inset to hold trays and built silverware dispensers into the counter,” Osatinski adds. “We found that if you put the utensils right at each station, people only take the utensil(s) they need. If they have to grab silver when they enter, they take more than they need. If they have to go looking for silverware with food in hand, it creates cross-traffic.”

Smart Thinking

One final station, the Crayon Café, is a self-sufficient, almost kiosk-like operation set at the entrance to the dining room. Featuring its own cash register, the café juts out in such a way that it remains open and accessible when the rest of the café is closed (via a series of pull-down gates.) “We can use this as a quick walk-up station and we keep it open on weekends until 5:30 p.m. to take care of the lunch and dinner meals; the full servery is only open for breakfast on the weekends,” Oberman says. “With the Crayon Café, we save labor, but we’re still able to offer a nice foodservice option.”

The Crayon Café is equipped with a grill and small fryer from Imperial, a Taylor frozen yogurt machine, a case for pre-made sandwiches and salads, hot box for pre-made pizza-by-the-slice and Starbucks coffee. It provides more than enough selection to satisfy off-hour demands.

Revenue Generating Renewal

“I went to visit Scottish Rite recently; it’s really looking fresh,” Osatinski says. “They’re serving about 800 customers a day in the café and sales are up.” Osatinski thinks there’s an important lesson there.

“It’s a great message to send to nonprofits, that if you can design the foodservice to be a destination spot, a revenue generator right out of the gate, it’s worth the investment and it will work for you for years to come.”


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