Jim McGrody: Patient Focused

Retail operations: McGrody’s dedication to patient foodservice has carried over into retail. The heart-healthy menu was brought into the cafe- terias, a move that helped Rex become the first hospital in Wake County to be designated with the Red Apple status from NC Prevention Partners, a nonprofit that promotes healthier lifestyles. The Red Apple status designates that the hospital has a healthy food environment. Retail sales have increased 36%. “The contractor used a lot of canned and frozen vegetables,” McGrody says. “We use fresh vegetables.” Most produce is delivered daily from the state’s farmers’ market, and the hospital offers a daily farmers’ market of its own.

In addition to using fresh items, the retail menu changed significantly. “The contractor was doing basic foods you would picture in a hospital cafeteria,” McGrody says. “We have salmon and rib eyes. We got people excited about food again. The check average when we took over was around $3.40. Now we’re around $4.90.” One way McGrody got customers
excited about the cafeteria food was through in-house branded concepts, many of which he created while he was associate director at the University of North Carolina Hospital in Chapel Hill. Rex is a part of the UNC Healthcare system.

“The thing that is unique about Jim is that you don’t have to tell him what to do,” says Angelo Mojica, director of food and nutrition services for UNC Hospitals. “I joke sometimes that he’s a diva. He’s so passionate about food.”

Jim-McGrody, FSD of the Month, May 2010, Rex Healthcare, patient service

When Mojica wanted to develop branded concepts at UNC, he turned to McGrody. “I took him to a Chipotle and said, ‘I want something like this.’ Two days later he came to me with the whole plan, down to the kind of peppers he wanted to use.”

That concept was Bandaleros. “This was created as an answer to the typical ground beef tacos that you find in most hospital settings,” McGrody says. Bandaleros offers beef machaca, pork carnitas, flan and made-to-order sopapillas, along with housemade pico de gallo, salsas and jasmine rice.

Other branded concepts McGrody developed include Continental Traders, the traditional hot line with items such as braised ox tail, blackened mahi mahi and turkey mole; Fast Breaks, which offers grab-and-go items; Cosimo’s, a pizza and pasta location; and Chefs in Motion, a daily display cooking station that accounts for 11% of café sales.

Promotions have also created buzz. One of the most successful was 20 Days Around the World, during which authentic food from a different country was served each day. “We went to Jamaica, Australia and all through Africa and Asia,” McGrody says. “We did a lot of research and went to local markets to get authentic ingredients. When we went to Australia we did a Jolly Jumbuck in a Tuckerbag, which is ground lamb wrapped in a puff pastry and served with a creamy onion gravy. When we were in Mexico we did not do tacos and fajitas.”

For the promotion, customers were given a passport and when they ate food from that day’s country, they received a stamp. If a customer ate all 20 days, he or she could turn in the stamped passport for a prize.

Training: With all the menu changes, McGrody knew he needed to train his staff, so he started the Black Hat Training program. “We are touting restaurant-quality food and many ofour cooks have never worked in restaurants,” McGrody says.

Black Hat Training is a four-tiered program during which cooks learn skills such as knife techniques and how to make veal stocks to food costing and placing orders. So far eight chefs have been through the program. McGrody says all cooks will go through the program. “Our training is vastly different in that they are taken out of the job and they go to ‘school’ for four weeks,” McGrody says. “You can take someone who has been cooking wrong for many years and he doesn’t buy in to the whole thing, and when he comes out he is a different employee.”

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