When it opened this past May, One West Café, located on the second floor of the University of Pennsylvania Health System’s (UPHS) Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine (PCAM) facility in Philadelphia, quickly became a destination spot for staff and visitors to catch their breath, relax and have some great food and beverages.
The latter are provided by high-end dining services provider Restaurant Associates (RA), which was contracted to operate One West Café. One West is the only location managed by RA at UPHS and offers a healthy and diverse alternative to other café locations at PCAM, which are all units of commercial chains like Jimmie John’s and Starbucks with fairly static and limited menus.
“We’d been looking for more food options for both our patients and our staff, and this provided a good opportunity given the location to create a more public space,” says Shannon Campbell, project manager for real estate, design & construction for UPHC.
“This is a centralized location within Perelman, you can see it from the street, you can see it when you enter the building,” adds Jane McKinney, UPHC’s director of real estate. “We already had a lot of retail foodservice on the ground level of Perelman, but this gave us an opportunity to put in a better, more flexible retail establishment that could provide changing menus to suit our needs. We could go healthier one week, not healthy another week and maybe have an ethnic food week. It gave us the opportunity to do some really unique things with retail foodservice.”
The One West menu changes daily and is either prepared in front of customers or produced in the RA-operated kitchen in the Penn Museum located nearby. There’s a hot breakfast option along with traditional breakfast bakery items like bagels in the morning, which is then switched out to lunch fare offered from several stations, including a robust salad bar, a sandwich station, a global food station and an action station.
The sandwich station has four premade choices each day, plus customizable to-order options, while the action station rotates RA concepts like The Dog House (hot dogs with different toppings) and Super Salads (healthy salads with superfoods like grains) weekly.
The global station, on the other hand, switches menus daily. An example of the kind of fare offered is roasted tilapia with tomato and corn salsa, green beans with shallots, watermelon and lime salad and roasted summer pasta salad with a mint vinaigrette.
“We get a lot of requests for healthier, vegetarian and vegan choices, so throughout the café we always try to have some of those types of options available,” adds Jenn Mikos, general manager for Catering By Restaurant Associates at both One West and Penn Museum. “And then we also have things like hot dogs once in a while so people looking for that ‘unhealthy’ meal can also get that.”
The location where One West Café currently sits was part administrative office space and part open patio that was partially enclosed when the café was constructed, though the renovation left some outdoor space for warm-weather seating. About a 1,000 square feet of patio was enclosed and the café now occupies some 4,500 square feet, 3,300 of it servery and 1,200 kitchen space, estimates Peining Lu, an interior designer with the Tsoi/Kobus & Associates architectural firm, which oversaw the project.
“The infrastructure [changes were] not that challenging compared with finding the right theme, the right design language for a food servery area in a hospital,” Lu says about Tsoi/Kobus’ design approach. “We wanted to make this space feel slightly different from the architectural language of the [rest of the] hospital.”
The PCAM itself is a modern, sleek building, but with One West Café, Tsoi/Kobus wanted to create a space with a with a rich texture that also provides a cozy feeling to help mitigate the high stress levels common in a hospital setting like PCAM, which is home to UPHS' Abramson Cancer Center, radiation oncology, cardiovascular medicine and an outpatient surgical pavilion.
Lu says the design team looked at high-end Lower Manhattan-style, urban-style cafes as models rather than cafes in other hospital locations, and the design that was finally chosen is based on an urban antique theme with the modern twist of accent color.
“We tried to make it different, but [knew] it [also] had to blend with the building, so we really highlight the texture of the materials that we are using,” she explains. “If you look at the ceiling and islands and also the servery area, we use a very grainy wood to highlight the antique feeling of the space.”
The café’s prominence is extended by its location, which can be seen from a bridge that connects PCAM with the other side of the UPHS campus, and makes it a natural gathering space. Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, it draws 800 to 1,200 customers a day on average.