Merging of Brands

Luby's uses hospital's theme to create foodservice program.

Dot's Kitchen, managed by Luby's, at West Campus-Texas
Children's Hospital in Katy, Texas

KATY, Texas—Luby’s Culinary Services has partnered with the marketing staff at the new 48-bed West Campus-Texas Children’s Hospital to create a kid-friendly foodservice program.

Retail branding: According to Todd Coutee, senior vice president of operations for Luby’s, the hospital’s theme was made up primarily of colored dots and globes, which were painted or posted on the walls and floors throughout the hospital. The marketing teams from the two organizations worked together to create Dot’s Kitchen by Luby’s and the Coffee Spot.

“We have a lot of programs; we aren’t cookie cutter,” Coutee says. “We try to mimic the culture and hit the mission statement for that hospital. Everywhere you go in the hospital there are colored dots and colored globes. They are on the floors and the walls. We worked with Texas Children’s marketing department, and after months of trial and error we came up with Dot’s Kitchen. They allowed us to use our name as leverage. It was a very integral part of us not forcing a program on them but working with them to have some thematic consistency throughout the hospital.”

Dot’s Kitchen is a scattered retail concept, anchored by Luby’s homestyle foods, which offers classics found in Luby’s commercial restaurants such as chicken fried steak, fried okra and fried fish. Other stations include a grill, action station, Italian concept, deli, salads made to order and soups. The retail operation also includes a grab-and-go cooler, which has items from Luby’s wellness program, Livin’smart. For the program meals are prepackaged in microwavable containers. Each meal, which includes a protein, starch and vegetable, is under 650 calories. Coutee says the Livin’smart meals are popular with the hospital staff who purchase the meals to take home or eat on a late-night shift. Meals include Jamaican jerk chicken with couscous and lemon pepper tilapia with asparagus and new potatoes.

The Coffee Spot offers Starbucks coffee, including espresso and iced drinks. Fresh-baked pastries, grab-and-go salads and sandwiches and soups are also offered at the Coffee Spot for customers who don’t want to go into the café to purchase food. Retail foodservice began Nov. 1.

Patient service: Luby’s offers a room service model for patient service. A room service associate works with the family and patient to order meals. The associates have tablets to electronically input patient orders, which are then sent to the kitchen, checked and prepared to order. Meals are delivered within 30 minutes. Currently room service associates bring the carts containing patient trays from the kitchen to the floors, where they distribute the trays. As patient census increases—patient feeding started March 1, and the hospital anticipates that it will increase the number of licensed beds from 48 to 96 within the next 18 months—runners will be hired to take carts from the kitchen to the patient floors.

“We really work with our room service associates so that they can manage that relationship with the family and the child,” Coutee says. “We are very specific with the hiring, and our training is designed to be sympathetic to the patient. We’ve scripted to engage with the child as well as with the family to understand exactly what their needs are and what they are going through. If there are brothers or sisters in the room, we’ve created programs to keep them occupied. We’re creating a chef’s table in the café where if a patient is well enough our onsite executive chef will work with them, as well as siblings, and let them build their own pizza or work with cookie dough to get them engaged. You never know what they are going through if they have a sibling who is in the hospital. We are really trying to take the opportunity with the foodservice to be involved with the family during the whole experience of having a sibling or child in the hospital.”

Stealth health: Coutee says the patient menu for Texas Children’s uses stealth health. “We wanted to create items that were recognizable to the children but also that were healthy for them,” he adds. “We spend six to eight months developing recipes for brownies, cupcakes, spaghetti, chicken tenders and hamburgers that incorporate nutrients, vitamins and different ingredients that help the children get well faster.”

A brownie is one example. The dessert incorporates prune juice, puréed beets, black beans and avocado to make the treat healthier. “It changes the whole nutritional components of that item but to the child on the menu it says it’s a brownie,” Coutee says. “It looks like a brownie and it tastes like a brownie.” Another example is a peanut butter and jelly cupcake that is made with puréed cauliflower and beets.

“I don’t think most children are prone to order beets, so we are enabling the patients to order all the things that are recognizable to them but the health component is phenomenal,” Coutee says. “We also have a training piece for the parents where we explain stealth health to them so they don’t think their child is going to eat all these [bad things]. It’s on the back of the menu. We do recipe cards as well to show the parents what’s in the items. Our thought process was we wanted to give some continuing education to the family. In the hospital the parents are there constantly so we hope we are giving them something they can take home with them and make those recipes at home for their child.”

Coutee adds that the room service associates are trained to go off menu if patients can’t find something appetizing. “We train the room service associates to ask the child what they like to eat. Then they talk with the dietitians to see if there are any restrictions to going off the menu to get them something they will eat to help in the healing process. It gives us a lot of flexibility and helps reduce waste while putting out a quality product.”

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