The Big Idea 2014: RWJ Live! brings the variety

timothy-gee

Timothy Gee
Executive Chef
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, New Brunswick, N.J.

We had an old pizza station that we wanted to convert, but we had to try to figure out how to do the next big thing without the capital dollars to do anything big. We decided to take a road trip and visit a number of contract-run hospitals to see what their foodservice trends are. What we saw was several new hospitals that are going with the station concept: paninis, Asian, sushi, pasta, etc., each with its own station. We needed to create that station idea without adding new stations.

What we came up with was RWJ Live!, which is five different concepts that we rotate on a weekly basis. We started with Personal Pizza, Mexican Grille, Greek Festival, The Tuscan Experience and Gourmet Salads. It creates more demand because it’s seen as something special. We offer it for a week and then customers don’t see it for another four weeks. The goal is for customers to feel like they’re not dining in a hospital.

Another way we change things up is, every Wednesday we do a theme day in the cafeteria, and many of the themes make use of the new station. One day we did a Food Truck Day, another day it was a Brazilian theme in celebration of the World Cup, and we’ve done a Jamaican Jerk Chicken Day.

We’ll also do some variations on the concept. For instance, at Personal Pizza we started with flatbreads, then we switched up to personal pan and then back to flatbreads. We also found that the pasta station, The Tuscan Experience, was fantastic at first but then it petered out. So we switched it out for a Hot Hoagie station, and we’re currently developing an Asian concept to replace that.

RWJ Live! has been operational for a little more than a year now. With our old concept, the average check was $2.75, and we were doing 176 transactions a day. RWJ Live! has an average check of $5.50, and we’re doing about 275 transactions a day. We’ve had to add only 1.5 hours of labor per day, and our projected annual profit with the new concept is $202,046. The station is now the second most popular, behind our 24-foot salad bar. 

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