Lisette Coston: Expertise in Expansion

Lisette Coston's tenacity helps ease growing pains at Saint Francis Health System.


LISETTE COSTON has broadened the foodservice department's reach at Saint Francis Health System by:

  • TAKING over and/or opening new operations as the health system expands
  • SWITCHING from cook-chill to room service for the majority of the system's patients and enhancing meal service for patients at the psych hospital
  • STARTING services to enhance patient and customer satisfaction, like Panda Meals to provide free meals to parents at the children's hospital

For some people, an expansion project can be a daunting task. But for Lisette Coston, director of nutrition and food service at the 912-bed Saint Francis Health System in Tulsa, Okla., it’s like a thrill ride. Coston has been with the system for 24 years, the last 13 as director, and during her time the system—and the foodservice department—have expanded tremendously. Hospitals, patient beds and a professional office tower were added, and Coston was responsible for providing services to all.

“The most rewarding aspect of my job has been that we have grown tremendously as a department during the last 10 years and we’ve been able to start new projects,” Coston says.

“I took over this operation in 1998. Since then I have made a number of changes; I’ve just about hit every element of the department, as well as acquired new facilities.”

Growing strong: David Wagner, vice president of support services and facilities management for the system, says tenacity is Coston’s greatest attribute. “She doesn’t give up easily,” Wagner says. “If she runs into a challenge she will stay hold of what the original concept was and she finds a way to make things work. She works in a very positive way. I’ve always appreciated that she doesn’t come up to the first no or roadblock and say, ‘I can’t do that.’ ”

At the system’s main location, 603-bed Saint Francis Hospital, Coston is responsible for the Food Court, the main cafeteria, which serves an average of 2,500 meals each day; the physicians’ lounge, which serves around 150 doctors daily; and Café Francisco, a coffee kiosk that had $133,000 in sales last year. There is another coffee kiosk at The Heart Hospital, which had more than $131,000 in sales last year. At 162-bed The Children’s Hospital at Saint Francis, in addition to patient feeding, Coston operates PJ’s Snax, a grab-and-go concept that offers coffee, smoothies and sandwiches. In 2007, the system added the 56-bed Saint Francis South, which has a physicians’ lounge and Redbud Café. Coston also offers patient feeding at the 91-bed Laureate Psychiatric Clinic and Hospital. The system also has a full retail operation at the Warren Tower, a professional building for the financial, accounting and human resources departments. Lastly, Coston operates Zone Appetit, a grab-and-go retail location in the system’s Health Zone, a 70,000-square-foot fitness facility.

With so much on her plate, it would be easy for Coston to get bogged down with keeping the operations up and running, much less adding and improving services. But that’s not the way Coston operates.

Patient services: In June 2007, the system acquired Saint Francis South. In a two-week period, Coston’s team switched the department from contract managed to self-op, gutted and rebuilt the kitchen, expanded the dining area, built a physicians’ lounge and started room service for patients.

“The kitchen was really tiny,” Coston says. “My administrator came to me and said, ‘we are going to close down the hospital for two weeks and we are going to give you the space adjacent to the kitchen. We want you to come up with a plan to make it bigger and more functional.’ Everything was new and we had to take over from a contractor, so that was a challenge.”

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