A kitchen renovation leads to a menu upgrade at Sarasota Memorial Hospital

Cook-serve equipment replaced the old cook-chill operation, resulting in scratch-made meals and restaurant-style service.
Mediterranean Bowl
Photo courtesy of Sarasota Memorial Health Care System

Orthopedic, mother/baby and oncology patients at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Sarasota, Fla., can now order meals to their rooms like hotel guests, thanks to a $6.25 million renovation of the hospital’s kitchen.

Over the past year, the 50-year-old cook-chill kitchen was gutted and remodeled into a restaurant-style cook-serve kitchen, producing scratch-made meals to order.

“Previously, we preplated, chilled and rethermed everything,” says Josh Kapinos, director of food, nutrition and hospitality services for Sarasota Memorial Health Care System. “Now, patients can call up orders between 6 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. and get their meals delivered in 45 minutes. There’s all new cooking equipment and a new room service line.” 


Grilled scallops plated restaurant-style; photo courtesy of Sarasota Memorial Health Care System

The impetus for the renovation was the need for a menu that reflected the state-of-the-art hospital’s new oncology tower and other building upgrades. The goal was to put meal service on par with the system’s excellent medical reputation and cater to the tastes of the area’s patients, who tend to be wealthier, says Kapinos.

It starts with sourcing restaurant-quality ingredients. “Our chicken breasts used to come out of the freezer, with grill marks already on the surface,” says Greg Hughes, culinary systems projects coordinator for the hospital. “We transitioned to making everything fresh from scratch—soups, desserts, seafood grilled to order, hand-breaded chicken tenders and more.” 

Breakfast is served all day, adds Executive Chef Omar Mattei. “We cook omelets to order, waffles, pancakes and poached eggs—the last [is] a new option with the new kitchen equipment,” he says. There’s also an extensive vegetarian menu. Chef Mattei cooks up a tofu scramble for breakfast and offers hummus with roasted vegetables and a variety of plant-forward salads and bowls.


Flatbread plate; photo courtesy of Sarasota Memorial Health Care System

Patients on other floors and sections of the hospital also benefit from the new kitchen and menu. They have access to a hybrid ordering model called “Fresh to You.” They place their orders on an iPad, setting a delivery time, and can choose from a roster of scratch-made items in every category.

The fresh approach extends to the Rooftop Cafe, a retail venue for hospital staff, where the menu includes items such as bowls, salads, sandwiches, fish tacos, grilled flatbreads, soups of the day and vegetarian specials, like the Buddha Bowl.

Buddha Bowl

Buddha Bowl; photo courtesy of Sarasota Memorial Health Care System

Other retail concepts will follow suit, both in Sarasota and a sister facility in Venice, Fla. The chef-inspired menu means “we plan to integrate more action stations, putting the show up front,” says Kapinos.


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