Foodservice Operation of the Month

Providence Point: Where everybody knows your name

The senior living communities’ renovated Light Horse Lounge is one of the many dining options available to residents.
Food options at Light Horse Lounge
The Light Horse Lounge offers a number of menu options for residents. | Photo courtesy of Elior North America.

Slide up to the bar at the Light Horse Lounge and you’ll find elaborate cocktails served atop dark wood, a live band and friends gathered to munch on barbecue pork sliders with sweet potato fries.

In its name, its look and its menu, the Light Horse appears like a trendy cocktail lounge. But this lively hotspot is in a surprising location: Providence Point senior living community in Pittsburgh.

Providence Point includes 336 independent-living apartments, 42 personal care beds, 42 healthcare residents and 20 memory support members. When it’s time to eat, residents have many choices, from casual dining and a snack cart to white-tablecloth fine dining and catered banquet events.  

But the Light Horse Lounge remains a consistent favorite among these many options: Sales have risen by 60% since a major renovation completed in 2020.

“I’m showing my age, but it really reminds me of ‘Cheers’—except our bartenders are all stable people,” jokes Food Service Director Cheryl Torre Rastetter, who is employed by Cura Hospitality. “They know the residents, they love when groups of friends come in and they’re always excited about putting together a drink that someone requests.”

The Light Horse Lounge is unusual, Rastetter says, for its full liquor license. (It’s a bit ironic, too: Providence Point sits on the site of the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, in which farmers protested Alexander Hamilton’s excise tax on whiskey. The campus is full of names from 18th-century American history, like Hamilton, Adams and Madison residential towers, along with the lounge’s hat-tip to Major General Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee III.)

The renovation expanded Light Horse Lounge to include a custom bar that seats 30, features granite countertops and adds a temperature-controlled wine wall with more than 250 softly lit bottles. A totally revamped menu includes elevated bar favorites like sliders, pizza, fried shrimp and more. 

Craft cocktails and mocktails are a mix of modern trends like Maple Manhattans and winter sangrias, along with weekly specials inspired by resident requests: Scarlett O'Haras, Lucky Leprechauns and Singapore Slings. Small bands and lounge singers a few nights a week, along with karaoke night, round out the Light Horse experience.

Pre-renovation, Rastetter says, the bar wasn’t as popular; a few people might come in on a given evening and a group of friends might stop by a few times a week for mixed drinks and basic bar snacks like pretzels and chips.

“Now it’s elevated in every way—but it’s a mellow and welcoming place where you can either meet friends for a reasonable meal and a cocktail, or just sip a glass of wine before a reservation at a sit-down dinner with your family members,” Rastetter says. “It feels friendly and open to whatever type of evening you’re looking to have with your friends and loved ones.”

Residents enjoying a drink

Residents enjoy a drink at the Light Horse Lounge. | Photo courtesy of Elior North America.

Farm-to-bar (and table)

A major part of the dining experience—whether it’s at Light Horse Lounge, the upscale Washington Room, casual Madison Café or expansive Neville Room—is the dedication to scratch-made meals using as much local produce as possible.

It’s personal for Rastetter, who lives on a 12-acre working farm growing tomatoes and herbs. She enjoys partnering with fellow farmers and other local suppliers, including Amish whoopie pies, Pittsburgh Pickle Company pickles, Hershey’s ice cream and Sweet Ashley’s chocolates.

Meals are about 90% scratch-made, and Executive Chef Caleb Hicks works to plan menus so they’re both consistent across most of campus and accessible to all tastes.

The team tends offer at least three “levels” of meals with its daily offerings: a homestyle entrée like meatloaf, a middle-level offering like an Asian stir fry and perhaps a prime rib with sides that rival a fine-dining restaurant. And whether you’re a healthcare resident eating at home or a person dining with friends at the Neville, your choices are quite similar.

“At the Neville you might get a bone-in chicken breast with sauce, stuffing, and a side; in healthcare you’ll get a regular chicken breast and the same fixings tweaked if necessary to meet dietary regulations,” says Hicks. “If your wife or your friend lives in another part [of campus], it’s important for us that we offer a similar menu.”

Still, a chef always likes an opportunity to get extra creative—and that’s where both the fine-dining Washington room and Providence Point’s robust catering business come in.

“We get to go wild and crazy in the Washington: not just lobster and lamb and octopus, but also elk, bison, ostrich, boar and shark,” Hicks says. “It scares some people, and then you have your residents who love to explore that creative side. Either way, it’s exciting for them to have the option and be exposed to something new.”

Food at Providence Point

The meals at Providence Point center around scratch-cooking and local ingredients. | Photo courtesy of Elior North America.

Catering to residents’ needs

Rastetter, Hicks and the rest of the team—who are employed by Providence Point—also enjoy creativity through the group’s robust catering business. The team sells about $30,000 to $40,000 in catering business each month, according to Rastetter.

“A lot of retirement communities don’t cater, but our thinking always was: You're going to take your family somewhere. You're going to have your anniversary dinner or your birthday or your book club meeting somewhere. Why not here?” Rastetter says.

In those contexts, the team recognizes, Providence Point is competing with any restaurant or event space in the Pittsburgh area. Thus, they work hard to set themselves apart: Residents can request absolutely anything. The room space is included for no extra rental fee. Diners pay for chefs’ and servers’ time, but no gratuity on top. 

The foodservice team enjoys it, too. Servers can pick up extra hours and work in a festive environment that’s something different from everyday service. Chefs have fun planning menus and executing creative meals. Rastetter gets to flex her artistic skills along with her team, decorating tables and spaces to suit themes.

“You have to be confident—but not overconfident—in your pricing and what you offer,” Rastetter says. “Residents invite their loved ones in, even though they could choose someplace else, because they love showing off our spaces and what we do. For us, that’s the true sign that we’re doing it right.”


Get to know Cheryl Torre Rastetter 

See what’s in store for Rastetter’s operation, which was named FSD’s February Foodservice Operation of the Month.

Q:  What is it that makes your operation excel?

Leading by example. The biggest compliment is hearing staff out there using my sort of verbiage with a resident: “Great to see you! You got your hair done today—I love it.” When you hear a teenager saying this type of thing, it goes to show they are watching. They see me help a resident who’s struggling with the beverage machine, or when I run to the back to see if we have any more of someone’s favorite cookies.

If I were negative all the time or stressed about being busy, they would pick up on that too. But if you’re not nice and pleasant, you don’t need to work here. There’s plenty of meanness out there in the world; we don’t need to have it at Providence Point. My team knows I’m going to be upbeat, and my managers know I trust their abilities and wouldn’t throw them under the bus. They in turn treat their staff that way, and they spread positivity to our residents.

I suppose that might sound a bit old-school, but it’s old-school for a reason. I don’t think I’d want to be a different type of manager.

Cheryl Rastetter
Cheryl Torre Rastetter. Photo courtesy of  Katie Goettmann. 

Q: What are your goals for the operation in the coming year?

More demo cooking and action stations out there. Chef and I had started this before the pandemic, but we had to stop because we didn’t have the staff. So we’re looking forward to bringing that back and adding some excitement!

We’d also like to bring a mobile cart to our healthcare residents. Right now in personal care we have a mobile cart with fresh fruit, potato chips, candy. We’d love to bring that to concept to the healthcare side, so people who are just looking for a little something—for themselves or visiting family members—don’t have to head all the way over to the café just for a snack.

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