Corporate dining facility offers healthier options for employees

Tenn. U.S. Cellular cafe features restauranteur doing on-site cooking,

March 6—Sharon Stewart doesn't mind telling you she was a heavy smoker who didn't eat well or exercise before suffering a heart attack three years ago, and then months later finding out she had diabetes. She's since given up the cigarettes and slimmed down by sticking to diets recommended by the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association. Stewart, who became director of U.S. Cellular's customer care center in Knoxville in 2010, wanted the center's 450 employees to feel as good as she did. She approached Robby Vann, the center's facilities manager, with the challenge, and he identified Knoxville restaurateur Deron Little as willing to offer better alternatives at affordable prices.

Little, owner of Seasons Cafe, Sequoyah Grille and a partner in Echo Bistro and Wine Bar, says he's brought the same philosophy from his restaurants to U.S. Cellular — high-quality fresh food. Indeed, Little eschews calling the facility a cafeteria because it evokes images of traditional Southern fare, and instead prefers to describe it as a corporate dining facility that he plans to name the Cornerstone Bistro.

The facility is open 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Entrees and soups change daily. A salad bar is set up for lunch and dinner. He expected to make much of the food at his Farragut restaurant, but demand has been so high since the January opening that he and culinary school-trained employees are cooking on site.