Medical center’s cafeteria pop-up cuisine breaks through monotony

Medical center’s cafeteria pop-up cuisine breaks through monotony

Arnold Palmer launches World Restaurant Collection, a cuisine rotation.

AVI Foodservice has discovered a way to bring the excitement and deliciousness of food trucks to medical campuses—without rolling in the actual trucks. The Arnold Palmer Medical Center, home to Winnie Palmer and Arnold Palmer hospitals, was recently the first of five medical campuses in the Orlando Health system to launch World Restaurant Collection, a pop-up retail space located inside the campus’s Winnie Palmer Café.

“Our facilities include maternity and children hospitals, so Winnie Palmer Café gets a ton of visitors,” says Bill Bessette, district manager. “And our visitors are family members that don’t tend to go home when caring for loved ones. They tend to stay, and they need convenient meals.”

While visitors frequent the cafeteria, 65 percent of the foodservice business still comes from the 2,500 staff on campus. “Hospital administrators asked us how we could be creative and get people excited about on-campus food choices, so we worked with the human resources department on how we can improve employee engagement through foodservice while still giving them a discount on dining,” says Bessette.

Previously the center’s Winnie Palmer Café offered grill, sushi, deli and homestyle – think meatloaf and mashed potatoes – stations with everything made from scratch and options rotated on a four-week cycle. “But even with that variety and the four-week cycle, people were looking for a wider range of choices as well as some surprises,” says Rich Dyce, director of culinary, who has worked at Arnold Palmer Medical Center for four years.

To add interest and excitement to on-campus food choices, the foodservice team launched World Restaurant Collection in May, featuring a new cuisine every couple of weeks. They started with Agave, a Latin American-inspired station that serves fajitas, tacos, quesadilla, chimichangas and tostados. “Everything is made to order and customizable, and we also feature specialty items like pork belly and fish tacos,” says Dyce.

“It was so popular,” says Kiden Clayton-Kjosa, director of food & nutrition at Arnold Palmer Medical Center, “we now do a new concept every week and switch up the food choices halfway through the week.” Dyce says his team is utilizing the cafeteria’s existing equipment such as a Mongolian grill for the rotating cuisines. The AVI marketing team has even created logos for each cuisine concept that the chefs develop.

In addition to the very popular Agave concept, other weekly rotations have included Caribbean, Italian fare in Piazza and Southern BBQ. “For something like our BBQ week, we don’t just do chicken, ribs and brisket,” says Dyce. “We’ve done smoked andouille sausage and banana BBQ meatballs. The goal is to break through the monotony often associated with cafeteria food.”

The World Restaurant Collection has also featured Roots cuisine for what Bessette refers to as “farm to table” or more aptly, “harvest to healthcare” food. “We’re trying to work with the seven local farms in Orlando but Florida doesn’t have any slaughterhouses so for now, the local protein we’re focusing on is seafood,” he says.

The pop-up space has also featured a sandwich showdown, pitting LA vs. New York eats. “We basically try to have as much fun as possible,” says Dyce. Another concept in the works is Carvery, a steakhouse-style cuisine of prime rib and every side imaginable.

Keeping guests – as well as chefs – on their toes with an ever-changing and diverse menu is serving the center well. In the last quarter, Arnold Palmer was in the 99th Press Ganey percentile and has seen a 14 percent increase in sales and a 20 percent increase at the World Restaurant Collection station. The concept has also helped them recruit better chefs. “The pop-up requires creativity from the chefs as they create new recipes, feature new meats and work with our vendors to come up with ideas that are seasonally based,” says Bessette.

With the pop-up concept tested and fine-tuned at Arnold Palmer, AVI has since rolled it out to Orlando Health system’s four other hospitals. “We have some very talented chefs, who have been very on board with trying something different,” says Dyce. “They have done an outstanding job implementing it.”

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