Nancy Geffre: Visionary Leader
Geffre says about 25% of the options in the food court are self-branded offerings, which are available at the Dakota Food Specialties station. Breakfast items like omelets and eggs made to order, a housemade granola, fresh fruit and yogurt bar and breakfast meat are served from this station. Hot entrées such as baked fish or spaghetti with meat sauce are available at lunch. (Dakota closes at 4 p.m.) There is also a salad bar. Geffre says this station is popular with customers who are looking for healthier options.
While Geffre admits she wanted to ensure that healthy choices were available in the food court, customers said they wanted a variety of options. “When we surveyed our staff about what they wanted in a new retail outlet, they all said they wanted to have hamburgers and fries whenever they wanted them,” she says. “They didn’t have that before with the main cafeteria.”
Geffre says sales in the main cafeteria have not decreased since opening the Dakota Food Court. “We got new customers at the food court and some of the old Heart Beat Café customers went there. Both retail locations are very busy.”
Developing a foodservice brand: When Geffre found out she had to open a new retail location to replace the Heart Beat Café, she saw it as an opportunity to create an identity for the foodservice department.
“We were in the surgical tower and we were looking at the artwork and there’s buffalo and suns and nice Native American artwork. It sort of clicked at that time. I had always wanted to name something Dakota because no one else had really used that and I thought it would be a popular name for a restaurant.”
One of the pieces of artwork in the surgical tower had a rising sun, which was the inspiration for the Dakota logo. The logo was first used in the Dakota Food Court and has since been expanded to other foodservice concepts.
When the department started on-demand dining for patients (room service) in 2007, the program was named Dakota Dining. All patients are served with on-demand dining, including a 75-bed children’s hospital, which opened last year. When a new heart hospital is completed in the next couple of years, those patients will also be served with on-demand dining.
There is a central call center that all patients call in to place their orders. The children’s hospital has a kitchen from which meals for those patients are prepared. Once the tray is assembled, a transporter delivers a cart full of trays to the patient floors, where a room service ambassador brings the tray to the patient.
In preparation for the switch from a traditional trayline to on-demand dining, Geffre hired an executive chef to create an on-demand dining menu with items such as grilled salmon, grilled pork loin, and a variety of soups and sandwiches. The kitchen was also renovated to accommodate on-demand dining.
The Dakota brand is also used at a coffee kiosk, which sells some items from Hot Stuff Foods like muffins, cookies and cinnamon rolls.
Looking forward: “There is always a crane somewhere,” Geffre says about Sanford’s expansion. The foodservice department is also growing in scope. Geffre recently got the go-ahead to open up two additional Dakota coffee kiosks, which will also offer grab-and-go breakfast and lunch items.
“I think the success of what we’ve done with the Dakota Food Court and Dakota coffee has really paid off, and people recognize that foodservice is important in a hospital and it really does create good feelings for our customers and our staff. That’s why we got approval to expand more,” Geffre says.
Santema says Nancy’s leadership is a large part of the expansion’s approval. “Nancy is just a wonderful, dynamic leader. She is a visionary. She is able to see the big picture.”
Other projects Geffre is working on include increasing seating at the Dakota Food Court and creating a larger salad bar in a space currently used for vending. She is also planning a demonstration kitchen where outpatients and community members can take classes on healthy cooking.