Many hospital cafeterias are tucked away in basements or at the end of a long labyrinth of hallways. Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minn., which opened Café 640 this year, was tasked with brightening up its centralized, second-floor location lacking in natural light. “The goal was to create an environment for patient’s family, visitors and staff to relax and get away from the trouble that goes on upstairs,” says Steve Kroeker, director of food and nutrition services at Regions. With some trick lighting and a more holistic approach to branding, in 18 months the dining area was transformed into a more tranquil 297-seat café.
Although the cafe does not have outside-facing windows, textured walls with strategic lighting and backlit photos give a taste of sunshine. A highlighted image on the ceiling gives the appearance of sky. Kroeker says it was important to create a space that makes guests feel recharged.
Branding from the outside in
The YumMarket station features only better-for-you-choices, such as fresh-made pizzas, sandwiches and healthy grain salads. The name YumMarket carries over branding from the hospital group’s YumPower brand, which is what was used for satellite operations such as K-12 installations and a kiosk in the nearby minor league ballpark. “Our goal was to take that outside community theme and bring it inside, as well,” Kroeker says. “We want people to know we are taking care of people here in the same way we are in the overall community.”
Menu with a mission
Before the remodel, guests were into cheeseburgers and whatever was coming off the grill with fries and onion rings, he says. Now YumMarket and a rotating world cuisine station are leading sales. Café 640 still has a grill, but the choices include roasted edamame, roasted potatoes, watermelon jicama slaw and veggie and fruit crudite.
High-definition electronic menu boards citing calories, fat, protein and salt content give diners the opportunity to opt for healthier choices. Food and nutrition services also partners with a calorie and nutrition-tracking app, so that customers can scan QR codes attatched to display food and upload their meals’ dietary information.
A cooler option
Kroeker’s team wanted to create an environment where the healthiest choice is the simplest choice. Eighty percent of the beverages are not sweetened with sugar. Water is positioned at customers’ eye level, and the full-sugar beverage items are at the very bottom of the reach-in cooler. Kroeker insists that if customers want Mountain Dew, they’re going to have to bypass the $1 waters and bend down to get it.
Throughout the renovation process, the overall health mission of the hospital has become very clear for the food and nutrition team. In the past, the team might have been concerned about losing money from promoting water instead of soda. “Knowing that we have the support of the organization allows us to make those kind of choices,” Kroeker says.