Once inside the lobby of Parker Adventist Hospital, guests are greeted with lofty notes from a self-playing piano. Within the sweeping expanse of the main entrance one will notice high ceilings and an inviting fire place that lends a warm welcome. It almost looks like a hotel lobby. But it’s not; it is in fact a healthcare facility that was built to provide hospitality. Such details were put into every aspect of the hospital from its artwork to its cafeteria menu that it is clear this facility was built with purpose and intention for healing and hosting. In fact, the cafeteria was recently remodeled to provide a place of comfort, relaxation and healthy restoration for patients, guests and employees.
After a short trip down one level from the lobby -via stairs or elevator- the clean hallways give way to a coffee bar, and a fully remodeled cafeteria. Booths and tables with chairs are set to seat up to 175 people in the west side of the room. Just to the east is the multi-stationed café area that is far from what many envision a hospital cafeteria to look like. Designed with a circular flow, several separate food stations line the back wall offering global cuisine, sandwiches, hot-off-the-grill favorites and house-made gelato. In the center of the room is a wood-burning oven that cranks out gourmet and made-to-order pizzas daily. And just to the front, is a large salad station with a garden full of options.
To get a better idea of how this beautiful hospital cafeteria came to be and how it operates today, we sat down with Lisa Poggas, Nutrition Services Director at Parker Adventist Hospital to learn all about it.
What kind of hospital is Parker Adventist?
Parker Adventist Hospital is 134-bed comprehensive health care facility that is part of the Centura Health System, which is comprised of the Catholic Health Initiative Hospitals and Adventist Health. The majority of our patients come in for O.B. care and bariatric care. Soon, the hospital will have a specialty focus for patients seeking spine and joint treatment.
What was the reason for the café’s remodel?
Originally the hospital only had 56 beds, but after the expansion it grew to 134 beds. However, after the expansion the café remained the same and only had seating for 45 people. It was very under-sized and the kitchen was teeny-tiny. There was only one line to cook on, so catering, café and patient meals were all prepared in one small space. The cooks were on top of each other and the equipment was too small to produce the amounts of food that the hospital demanded.
Now, the new dining room seats 175 people inside and 50 more outside. With the increased seating capacity, we are able to serve people from the community who stop in for lunch or dinner as well as our patients, visitors and staff. This remodel has allowed us to capture higher revenue and cater to larger volumes of traffic.
What design philosophy or model did you follow and why?
We wanted to save the wood stone oven and decided to design the café around it. Next, we decided to create separate areas that highlighted different styles of cooking. This includes a grill station, stir-fry station, sandwich station, gelato station, salad station and world cuisine station.
The majority of the kitchen staff has certified degrees from Le Cordon Bleu, Johnson and Wales and other recognized culinary institutes. We wanted to design an environment that attracted talented chefs and customers.
Lisa also pointed out that offering healthy options within the variety of foods was important. For example, the salad bar, aptly named “Garden Patch” is a large station filled with fresh veggies, fruits, proteins and other salad toppings.
The salad bar station was a key in being able to offer healthy options every day. A lot of hospitals are trying to do away with offering sugary drinks, fried foods and otherwise labeled “unhealthy” foods, but my CEO says “let’s do things in moderation” and I’m so grateful for that because we would lose sales if we didn’t provide the variety of options. We offer a great variety of healthy options, but have kept some of the staple comfort foods that many of our guests look for.
It’s important to provide people with options. That’s why we have our Better Bites menu options. It’s a daily selection of food that is priced at $5, less than 750 calories and 30% fat. We offer one or two Better Bites options every day.
What amenities were added after the remodel?
We have a full-service coffee bar and we make our own gelato. We change out the gelato flavors daily and it sells out every day. We learned how to make if from an Italian chef and have really found a great product. Other hospitals offer gelato, but not house made. That’s what really sets our café apart, the fresh ingredients and daily preparation.
The coffee bar also sells sandwiches and treats all day, which is a great option for guests who visit the café the main area is closed. There is also a barista on staff who makes lattes, espresso and other coffee drinks to order just like your neighborhood coffee shop.
Additional amenities include:
- A self-serve beverage station that offers both Pepsi and Coca-Cola products as well as iced tea
- A gourmet pizza menu and made to order pizzas
- Daily specials
- Patient room service between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. with full menu availability
When is the café open?
We have separate meals times and the main café area closes between these hours.
The café hours are:
Breakfast: 7 a.m.-10 a.m
Lunch: 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Dinner: 5 p.m.-9 p. m. Monday through Friday and 5 p.m.-7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The coffee shop hours are:
7 a.m. – 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. -7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Did you consider the elements of rest and relaxation when designing the dining area?
Yes, there is a healing arts element throughout the dining area and hospital. In the dining room itself we have prints and photography of nature. There are also large floor to ceiling windows that line the west wall with a full view of the mountains. Not many hospital cafeterias have the luxury of such a great view, so we are very fortunate that we do. We really worked with the space so that it doesn’t feel like you are in the basement, when in fact you really are.
What kind of training is required for your food service staff?
The kitchen staff has to go through all the same standard training on health and safety as any restaurant does. In fact, we are held to an even higher standard. We take extra steps to teach our employees all about cross-contamination and allergy prevention. We also work to keep our team a cohesive unit. They take all their breaks at one time. This way they can bond, grow as a team and all work as a unit at the same time.
When you create food for the cafeteria, is there anything that changes between the way the food is prepared or stored for the food that is going up to the patients rooms?
We do small-batch cooking and work to keep each dish as freshly prepared as possible. With the menu for the patients we create things that go across all diet types, low-sodium, gluten-free, and so on. We haven’t done nutrition labeling at this point because we don’t have the time, but we are thinking about it in the future.
Every dish that goes up to the patient is delivered on china. The presentation is important to us and to the patient’s experience. We use real silverware, china, the whole works.
What equipment did you need to purchase for the remodel?
Everything-our old kitchen was all electric and we now it’s all gas. Electric wasn’t as efficient as gas and we wanted to keep our kitchen as efficient as possible.
When you bought your equipment what concerns did you have?
We needed it to be something that was easy to use and would last a long time. We wanted equipment that was safer to operate, easy to clean and not too complicated in technology. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to go with a lot of energy-efficient equipment, mainly because we didn’t have enough in our budget to really go that route.
What pieces of equipment are used the most?
Of all the equipment, the big pieces that get used the most are the Turbo Chef steam kettle, our tilt skillet, the blast chiller, the combi oven, the wok and the pizza oven.
What do you do to maintain the equipment?
The cooks are in charge of cleaning the equipment every day, but we are learning that preventative maintenance is also very important.
Do you regularly update the menu?
The menu is updated twice a year, I make recommendations but the chef makes the decision on what recipes will be served each day. When the menu is updated, we rotate new recipes in and remove low performing items from the menu.
Do you cater?
Yes, we cater events that happen around the hospital and occasionally outside of the hospital. We’ve been recently contracted by our corporate offices to provide lunch catering for them. The size of the kitchen’s production area really allows us to cater events while maintaining regular kitchen activity for our daily business.
Parker Adventist Hospital is a success story in how to develop a hospital cafeteria program that combines health and satisfaction along with profitability. By putting the time and effort into creating a kitchen that attracts well-trained chefs as well as a menu that attracts hospital employees, visitors, patients and community members, this cafeteria remodel has proven to be a great investment for years to come.