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. 

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
chicken herbs

We make and broadcast short YouTube videos on TV monitors to educate our customers about cooking techniques, like how to cut up a chicken or what herbs and spices go well together. The monitors also are used to display daily menus, nutritional and allergen information, upcoming foodservice events and local weather forecasts.

Managing Your Business
wurster west may 2016

At a nearly 150-year-old university, every stone column and classroom has treasured stories to tell. But with that history come the logistical challenges of operating in outdated spaces—especially for foodservice. Such is the case at University of California at Berkeley, where longtime cafe Ramona’s in Wurster Hall closed in March to make way for an updated, as-yet unnamed concept.

With little more than a steam table and coolers, Ramona’s was limited by its lack of ventilation. And, as a former classroom space, it never was intended to function for foodservice, says Jennifer Wolch...

Ideas and Innovation
leftovers containers

We use our Menu Forward idea to empower staff to develop menu items and keep leftovers in check. Product left at the end of service may be claimed by any station to become part of a new item within six weeks. I’m happy to see my star team fighting for their ideas and products; the benefit to food cost is spot-on, and my freezer has no mystery items lurking in the corner.

Ideas and Innovation
food allergy

When potential students come to campus, we match them with a student from our allergy support group for a tour of our dining facilities. The ambassador helps the potential student to understand how they navigated campus with their food allergy. This showcases what we do for allergies on campus, and is a highly successful way to make the students feel good about dining.

FSD Resources