Hospital cafes raise the bar on coffee service

Morrison and Cura partner with local or brand-name roasters to offer barista-inspired drinks and premium food choices.
Market Coffee shop
Market Coffee is the branded coffee shop in the newly renovated Health Alliance Hospital. / Photo courtesy of Morrison

Before Cane River Cafe opened inside Natchitoches Regional Medical Center in Natchitoches, La., last year, Cura Hospitality, the hospital’s foodservice provider, invited several local Louisiana coffee roasters in for a tasting. Ultimately, New Orleans Roast became the coffee vendor of choice.

“New Orleans Roast coffee has been a mainstay on grocery store shelves across Louisiana, but now guests can get a freshly brewed cup at our new Cane River Cafe,” said the concept’s general manager, Amanda Roberts. “This is the natural next step in growing our brand, and we can’t wait to welcome the Natchitoches community to come see all that we have to offer.”

This is the first counter-service shop for the coffee brand, which is roasted in small batches just steps from the French Quarter in New Orleans. The line includes coffees laced with chicory, the legendary New Orleans blend, as well as varieties such as Bananas Foster, Southern Pecan and Crème Brulee.

With consumers accustomed to elevated coffee culture and barista-style drinks, gone are the days when any cup of joe will do for employees and visitors patronizing a hospital cafe. Cura is increasingly catering to today’s fussier coffee drinkers with menu upgrades and vendor partnerships.

New Orleans RoastLouisiana's Natchitoches Regional Medical Center chose New Orleans Roast for the coffee in its Cane River Cafe. / Photo courtesy of Cura Hospitality

Texas Health Frisco in Frisco, Texas, is another example. There, the cafe features Ascension Coffee, a Dallas-based coffee roaster with a farm-to-table focus. Ascension roasts 1,600 pounds of coffee a week for Cura’s Texas hospital accounts in Dallas, Plano, Addison and, now, Frisco. Along with their coffee, customers can get fresh scones, bagels, muffins, fruit and yogurt for breakfast, and sandwiches and salads for lunch.

Even when local roasters are not an option, healthcare operations are ditching commodity coffee for destination brands. Allegheny Health Network hospitals partner with Caribou Coffee, known for its signature roasts and sought-after cold brews.

Caribou coffee
Allegheny Health Network offers cold-press Caribou Coffee in its hospital cafes. / Photo courtesy of Cura Hospitality

Morrison Healthcare, the foodservice provider for close to 1,000 hospitals nationwide, developed an internal coffee platform for its cafes called Market Coffee. When a hospital cafe is remodeled or built from the ground up, Market Coffee is usually installed as one of the concepts; Morrison now counts about 100 of these branded coffee shops.

The coffee served is always premium, but the platform is not limited to any one vendor. In locations where “buy local” is strong, Morrison may collaborate with a local roaster. But for the company’s most recent cafe renovation at Health Alliance Hospital in Kingston, N.Y., Morrison teamed up with Starbucks.

“We offer an almost full menu of Starbucks beverages, including popular espresso drinks and seasonal selections,” said Lisa Russo, coffee brand manager for Morrison. “This also is the first location where the coffee shop is combined with the Exchange [a retail concept], so customers can pick up grab-and-go salads, sandwiches and snacks 24/7.” Market Coffee also sells bagels, blondies, chocolate chip cookies and other baked goods.

Trained baristas prepare the drinks, just as they would in a regular Starbucks. But an extra perk is the Starbucks Serenade single-cup coffee brewer housed in a separate nook within Market Coffee. “If pressed for time, customers can brew their own coffee anytime and check out digitally at the machine,” said Russo.

Starbucks Serenade
The Starbucks Serenade machine gives customers access to fresh-brewed coffee 24/7. / Photo courtesy of Morrison

Market Coffee at Health Alliance Hospital opened in December with the goal to increase visitor and employee engagement and give back to the dedicated staff “that works such long hours,” said Amber Chermak, Morrison’s regional director of operations for this area. “Employees no longer have to stop before their shift to pick up coffee, and they can grab a cup to go on their way home.”

“The staff comes into the cafe and exclaims, ‘OMG, there’s a coffee bar here now,’” she added. “The response has been very positive, and Market Coffee has turned into a place to socialize for guests and employees.



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