When looking to overhaul a hospital eatery, grab a page from three operations whose renovations have taken their hospital dining to the next level.
1. Add authentic ethnic flair
When renovating the cafe at Arkansas Heart Hospital in Little Rock, Ark., hospital CEO Bruce Murphy sent Food and Nutrition Director Coby Smith to Tokyo, where he was able to sample ramen and learn how to prepare it for the cafe’s new ramen bar. Smith prepares all of his stocks fresh, allowing him to control how much fat and sodium are in the final product. The ramen, offered three days a week, has become so popular that Smith regularly serves it to nonhospital patrons. “We have people come in off the street to just eat the ramen,” says Smith. “I have people come from downtown Little Rock to eat it.”
2. Create a welcoming environment
When Christian Hospital in St. Louis announced it was adding a fireplace to its new cafeteria, Food and Nutrition Services Director Kay Morgan said it was “the talk of the hospital.” Along with the cafeteria’s faux stone finishes and wood accents, the fireplace was meant to provide a welcoming environment for hospital staff and guests, who may be experiencing a stressful time. Due to patrons’ busy schedules, Morgan says that the space doesn’t suffer from overcrowding. Instead, she says the area “allows people to escape for a little while.”
Photo credit: Bret Berigan
3. Spice up the menu with guest chefs
In the midst of the local restaurants occupying Boston Children’s Hospital’s food court lies Chef’s Playground, a space that was created during the food court’s $11 million renovation. Chef’s Playground hosts celebrity and local chefs who cook meals not normally offered at the hospital. The space also holds a variety of events such as Parents Night Out, where parents of hospital patients can enjoy a four-course meal prepared by a visiting chef.
4. Invest in streamlining tech
Along with its fireplace, Christian Hospital also installed a remote-controlled refrigeration system. The system, located on the cafeteria’s roof, controls all the refrigerated equipment inside, such as the beverage refrigerator and the walk-in freezer and cooler. Morgan says that the system enables the hospital to identify problems more quickly, as well as cut down on noise and AC expenses by eliminating the need for individual condenser units.