The idea behind FM's annual Best Concepts awards competition is to recognize readers whose operations demonstrate both leading edge thinking and bottom-line results. Our editors pored over scores of entries to select the winning concepts and organizations that follow.
Food Management would like to congratulate the following Best Concept Award Winners: Best of Show
What: Eleven 01 Cafè and Lounge (Terry-Lander Halls)
VIEW A STREAMING VIDEO that shows a quick walk through of the Eleven-01 Cafè. Go to www.food-management.com/Eleven01 
one of Eleven 01's chefs at work as viewed from behind its Asian station
contemporary seating that serves as a transition space between a more upscale small table dining area
the convenience retailing area a view that shows how the servery blends easily into the c-store environment behind it.
AN OPEN KITCHEN: The curving servery face maximizes service points; allows for flexible sharing of personnel and provides customers with a view of the full range of kitchen support activities
We already considered the University of Washington (UW) dining facilities some of the industry's "Best of Class" retail foodservice operations when we first reported in March 2003 on its renovations of Husky Den at the student union and of "8" in McMahon Hall.
With the opening of the Eleven 01 Cafè and Lounge last fall, the UW Department of Housing and Foodservices sealed its reputation and demonstrated that its approach to developing foodservice concepts is far more flexible and sophisticated than one that relies mostly on a station-by-station model to provide retail variety.
While Eleven 01 has scores of innovative features, its most impressive characteristic is its seamless integration of space, cuisines, and serving and seating areas into a blended unity. The result is a whole experience much greater than the sum of its parts.
"In each of our renovations we've tried to create a specific 'look-and-feel,'" says Paul Brown, UW's director of housing and foodservices. "In the case of the Husky Den, we wanted a branded food court to compete with the best of them. With '8,' we wanted a corral-type design and a controlled register system. With Eleven 01, we wanted a model something like a food court on the transaction side, but with a comfortable, residential ambience on the experiential side."
Like many renovations, Eleven 01's physical options were constrained by the space allotted for its former, straight-line servery footprint. To gain the most flexibility, "it became almost a tear-down project," says Executive Chef Jean-Michel Boulot, who served as the project's team leader. "Except for the pillars, we kept no trace from the past—even the walls were taken out."
Working closely with its architects and designers, the team took full advantage of a high ceiling near the restaurant's entrance and creatively accommodated low ceilings almost everywhere else. Among Eleven 01's most notable features:
- A wide range of seating "neighborhoods," including a raised and intimate small-table area overlooking the servery "amphitheatre;" contemporary, high-stooled seating at community tables; and a high-energy lounge environment with bigscreen TV that blends into a c-store area.
- A glass-walled and soundproofed "chef's table" and library in the heart of the open production area. The multi-use space is available for special events, dinners, product testing and training.
- High-impact, animated LCD menu boards that highlight rotating daily and promotional items.
Eleven 01 has fewer distinct stations than the earlier projects. "It was one of our 'lessons learned,'"says Brown. "Even with a smaller footprint, from an experiential perspective it appears there is more here."
Instead of emphasizing station variety, Eleven 01 provides broader, rotating menu flexibility in three main serving areas that blend together along a large, oval service "face" that encloses the open kitchen.
Virtually all the cafè's offerings are made from scratch there, with prep work performed in front of customers throughout the day.
There are no steam tables; instead, food is displayed in small-batch platters kept warm on heated ceramic holding counters. Another touch: a glass, Chinese "barbecue box" that displays fresh whole chickens that are chopped to order and sold as part of a plated meal. Japanese Bento boxes, Indian vegetarian fare and similar offerings provide wide ethnic variety alongside an equally broad range of regional American comfort food. Orders are about 50:50 for onsite consumption vs. takeout, and both disposables and permanentware options are available at every point of service. Core formats include:
- A Sandwich-Soup-Pasta bar & grill with offerings modified by daypart to match customer preferences. Integrated baking facilities supply fresh pastries as well as traditional and artisan breads.
- An American regional cuisine cooking suite provides a wide range of comfort foods on a rotating, weekly basis. Each new theme is based on a cookbook from the chef's library that is on display.
- An Asian station geared to scalable, small batch cooking; this provides a sense of custom preparation along with high-volume production economies.
" This part of campus houses many first-year students," comments Boulot. "They tend to be less interested in international fare, which is already featured in other campus venues; that's one reason for the emphasis on more familiar foods at Eleven 01."
Best New Servery Design
Coping with a Midcourse Design Correction
"Oh, it turns out we DO need a cafè after all... Hope that's not a problem..."
What: Riverside Cafe
Where: Yawkey Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
Project Team: (from MGH) Helen Doherty, RD, Susan Barraclough, RD, Joan Shay; Cini•Little International (foodservice consultant); Juerg Schmidt (design consultant).
The Big Idea: Originally, the new Yawkey Center for Outpatient Care at Massachusetts General Hospital wasn't designed for onsite foodservice. But when user groups found out about the omission, they pushed for a change even though, by that point, some design aspects—like facilities for ventilation hoods—were impossible to add. Instead, the project team came up with a ventless, two-sided serving concept that would work in a limited space without hoods. One side offers hot panini sandwiches and individual pizzas heated in a cheese melter (local codes allow panini grills and cheese melters to operate without hoods). On the other: made-to-order entree salads, a slew of pre-wrapped grab-and-go sandwiches from the hospital's central kitchen, as well as bottled beverages, pastries, coffee drinks and soups. "It's a good thing we designed in flexibility," says Barraclough: since Riverside opened, customers have also clamored for (and begun getting) breakfast items like hot breakfast sandwiches, pizzettes and cereal.
A Cafè Worthy of the View
How to make sure the venue doesn't play second fiddle to the space it occupies.
What: Park Cafe
Where: Time Warner Center, New York City
Project Team: Julie Sajda, Charles LaMonica and Michael Gallagher of Restaurant Associates
The Big Idea: The challenge was to develop a dining space that would complement the ultra-modern new Time Warner headquarters in Manhattan's Columbus Circle area. Opened last March, the Park Cafè derives its name from the spectacular view afforded of Central Park from the cafè's huge windows, which reach up to the 20-ft. high ceilings.The space itself features deep gray volcanic stone, sleek green tile and straight-edge glass that highlight the beauty of the food, dispensed from stations such as Barbecue Smokehouse, Housemade Pizza, Daily Chef's Table (including a sushi chef once a week) and a Starbucks coffee bar. Participation by the 1,700-person building population has consistently remained at around 60 percent for lunch and 30 percent at breakfast. In addition, revenues are derived from catered functions attracted by the ambiance of the space, often for parties in excess of 100.
Making Changes? Make Them Big!
A whale of a new dining hall accompanies a radical meal plan alteration.
What: Holloway Commons Dining Hall
Where: University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH
Project Team: David May (FSD), Rick MacDonald, Jon Plodzik, Ralph Coughenour, Art Main, Livermore & Edwards (architect), Ricca Newmark Design (facility design), Porter Consulting-Worldwide (meal plan concept)
The Big Idea: Meal plan changes—especially when they involve price increases—are always touchy subjects on college campuses. So when UNH unrolled its revolutionary continuous-service approach to all-you-care-to-eat dining, it did it in conjunction with the opening of a spectacular new dining hall that goes a long way to making the idea of continuous service a gotta-have program. (The same menu plan also debuted in the campus's two existing board dining halls at the same time). Holloway Commons features floor-to-ceiling windows, attractive woodwork, striking signage, seating on two levels, a marketplace-style servery and an array of exhibition-style stations that reflect the latest menu trends in college dining: brick oven pizzas, sizzlin salads, stir frys, a grill and a Euro kitchen (where students are encouraged to interact with the chefs). The complex also has a late-night retail outlet that is open until 1 am daily.
Lessons Learned and Implemented
With nine renovations done, the tenth benefited from experience.
What: Quincy House Dining Hall
Where: Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Project Team: Ted Mayer (executive director), Bob Leandro ( assistant director—residential dining), Jack deMelo (Harvard Real Estate Services), Ricca Newmark Design (foodservice consultant), Shawmut Design & Construction (general contractor), Beacon Architectural Associates, Institution Recycling Network, May Foodservice (contractor).
The Big Idea: Quincy is the latest in a series of dining hall renovations that have radically upgraded and transformed Harvard's traditional "house" system dining operations from an antiquated production emphasis on the back-of-the-house to a modern upfront servery that brims with fresh food, to-order cooking and wide variety emphasizing both traditional favorites and new ethnic-inspired choices. Quincy also incorporates elements that reflect lessons learned from the nine previous renovations: examples include plates stored under the tray slides rather than atop sneeze guards for easier access and a clearer view to emphasize " spaciousness"; recessed counters at the soup/pasta station to allow better clearance between the serving well, serving utensils and sneeze guard; and making the deli a stand-alone island with access from either side to cut down congestion.
Taking Advantage of Adversity
A flood that wiped out the kitchen opened the door to dramatic changes.
What: Food production kitchen and retail cafe
Where: Methodist Hospital, Houston
Project Team: Mark Blakeslee (former interim FSD), Vanessa Robinson (current FSD), Robert Rippe Associates (design)
The Big Idea: Following a devastating flood in 2001, Methodist Hospital took advantage of the need to rebuild its wrecked infrastructure by radically upgrading its facilities. A new visitor/employee cafè, the Market Place, is a much roomier and more appealing space that offers more food variety and better accommodates the needs of timestrapped staffers. Meanwhile, the patient feeding component was altered from an almost exclusive cook-chill production model to one that retains some cook-chill elements for bulk items like soups, but also combines a traditional select menu with a room service approach. An innovative new dual production area has two identical work centers facing each other: one to assemble traditional patient meals (including some to-order components that can fill last-minute change requests), and the other to fill room service orders. Each has its own finishing kitchen a few feet from where hot plates are added to trays. A common central space has backup supplies of salads, desserts, beverages and tableware.
Traffic Bang for the Renovation Buck
Cosmetic upgrades turn drab cafeteria into hip gathering place.
What: Power Station cafeteria
Where: Conroe (TX) High School
Project Team: Debbie Zemanek (FSD), Craig Berry ( Circumference, Inc.-design/construction), CMD, Inc. (graphics)
The Big Idea: Faced with declining participation and sales, Conroe ISD committed to an upgrade of its high school cafeteria to produce a "hipper" place that could attract more students. But of course, the upgrade had to be done within budget restraints. That ruled out significant facility and equipment changes. So the district focused on the "look" of the cafeteria, especially signage, dècor and other mainly cosmetic aspects. The result: essentially the same old cafeteria, except with a jolt of electricity. Station signage has dramatically been improved to convey cutting-edge youthful vigor. Stations each have their own "look." Station names include FastTrack (with big posters of skateboarders), LiveWire, Electric Avenue, Firefly Deli and Wild Tomato.
Concept Taking a Good Thing and Making It Even Better
Realizing the potential of a concept by adding a little planning, investment and vision.
What: [email protected]'s
Where: Providence Health System, Portland, OR
Project Team: Lin Rush (regional hospitality director), Mary Jo Ackerman (nutrition services project mgr.), Jan Marsh (asst. nutrition services mgr.), David Johnson (J.R. Jurgens Associates, Inc.), Joni Hutchinson (PHS Leasehold management), Rick Sanders (PHS Design/Construction Dept.), Inline Commercial Contruction
The Big Idea: It began as an upgrade to a simple espresso cart concept that had been in place since 1990 at Providence Hospital. It ended up being a lot more: a beefed up permanent station in a prominent location visible to the main entrance of the medical office buildings and next to an existing cafè (called Vinnie's). The result: a 36-percent jump in sales that will pay off the $130,000 investment made to bring it into being. MJ's was always a profitable retail operation dispensing self-branded specialty coffees, baked goods, grab-and-go items and bottled beverages. But it was limited and a pain to set up and tear down daily. Now, as a permanent structure sharing storage space with the adjoining Vinnie's, [email protected]'s generates more than $1,500 daily in sales. Its redesigned curved counter is open to the building lobby and visible from the main entrance, prompting tons of impulse business from visitors eager for a treat after visiting the medical center.
Hip and Healthy
Simple changes lead to big sales of healthy food in high school cafeteria.
What: Health Nut Cafe
Where: Hopkins (MN) High School
Project Facilitator: Bertrand Weber (director-nutrition services)
The Big Idea: With only minimal resources to work with, Hopkins High FSD Bertrand Weber came up with a dynamic station concept that not only proved immensely popular with students, but one that dispensed healthy sandwiches and salads to a customer base not noted for favoring such cuisine. The design was effected through such simple means as using spray paint to produce a hip, edgy "street" look. Meanwhile, the menu ranged from high-end sandwiches made on fresh natural-ingredient breads sourced from a local bakery to various pre-packed salads and organic and natural snacks. Sales at the station jumped by 450 meals a day (adding $6,000-$7,000 in weekly revenues) and didn't level off even after the novelty factor wore off. Following a full cafeteria renovation this past summer, an upgraded Health Nut Deli became part of a new six-station food court in the high school.
Same "Lab," Big Difference
Amazing what a menu boost can accomplish!
What: Healthy Eating Lab
Where: Frist Campus Center, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
Project Team: Stuart Orefice (director-dining services), Chef Cary Neff, Chef Rob Harbison (dining services executive chef), Princeton Task Force on Health & Well Being
The Big Idea: Princeton's Beverage Lab was a forlorn, underutilized space largely bereft of flair, interest...or customers, especially during cold months when its smoothie/beverage-heavy menu was out of season. But apparently, location had nothing to do with it because when the concept became the Healthy Eating Lab this past fall, it pulled a Cinderella. Suddenly, transaction volume tripled as the station has become a popular stop for students looking for a retail foodservice option. What made the difference? Certainly the menu—an array of "healthy" food and drink options ranging from sushi and a rotating selection (six a day) of some 40 spa salads (courtesy of Conscious Cuisine author Neff) to healthy beverages like teas and bottled energy drinks. The outlet retains the "lab" theme because of its location in the Frist Center, site of Albert Einstein's laboratory when he was a professor of theoretical physics at the university.
Best Convenience Retailing
A Super-Customized Campus C-Store
From organics to DVD rentals, everything an urban, diverse campus needs.
What: The District Market
Where: George Washington University, Washington, DC
Project Team: Christine Ficher, director, dining & retail services, GWU; (for Aramark) Gene Hood (district manager), Amelia Powell (marketing manager), Greg Billhardt (store manager), Mark Walker (national marketing manager, convenience retailing operations); Rothweiler Group ( architect)
The Big Idea: The result of extensive market research of the student population by campus dining services provider Aramark, GWU's District Market is specifically designed to meet the unique needs of a diverse, sophisticated university community in which some 7,000 students (out of a total of 17,000) live on campus, 4,000 of them in apartments with full kitchens. Hence a 12,000-sq.ft. food emporium that includes a complete grocery store with full deli and bakery, a rotisserie station, fresh produce and natural food lines, including organic items. In addition, District Market also sells health and beauty products, offers a DVD rental service and even has an online grocery ordering service with free delivery. An extensive HMR section offers sushi, organic meal options, vegeterian and vegan foods and even kosher foods (including kosher sushi) complete with separate microwaves for heating meat and dairy items (kosher rules prohibit the mixing of the two categories).
If "Borders" Can Do It...
Library cafè gives high school an economical study hall alternative.
What: Paws Awhile Cafe
Where: Oak Park & River Forest High School, Oak Park, IL
Project Team: Micheline Piekarski (FSD), Don Vogel (library administrator)
The Big Idea: Faced with an administration request to find a way to "do away with the typical-study hall," OPRF High opened Paws Awhile in 2001 in the school library in conscious imitation of the successful Borders book store idea of making a reading space a multi-purpose lounge area with food/beverage service. More than just a cafeteria adjunct, Paws Awhile offers fruit smoothies, candy (by the ounce), soft drinks and even Wolfgang Puck coffees, biscotti and other baked goods (including the house specialty "Huskie Paw" cinnamon roll). Decorated with historical pictures from the school archives, Paws Awhile has helped boost daily library attendance by over 50 percent. Costs are minimal: one employee mans the station from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., while vendors contributed all the merchandising equipment and a parent group donated the table and chairs, which seat around 40.
Responsive Meal Service for Sick Kids
An in-ward "grocery" meets patient food needs with no time lag.
What: Kids Korner Grocery
Where: children's ward at St. Rose Dominican Hospital's Rose de Lima campus, Henderson, NV
Project Team: Paul Deignan, RD, (manager, nutrition services), Debbie Pavlica, Heather Millard, Sherry Poinier, Aurora Gonzales, Roxanne Gammariello, Lacey Newbry, Bob Davis
The Big Idea: Pediatric wards are wastelands for patient foodservice. Kids are notoriously finicky eaters under the best of circumstances, and seriously sick kids even more so. The 100-sq.ft. Kids Korner Grocery helps solve the problem by putting up to 135 kid-friendly food/drink options (cereal bowls, ice cream, PBJ sandwiches, etc.) at close reach. Set next to a nurse's station in the 24-bed pediatric ward, it can be accessed by any authorized parent/caregiver any time, 24 hours a day—whenever a young patient expresses a desire. The Kids Korner Grocery has almost completely done away with patient tray service in the ward and reduced cost-per-day rate for patient feeding from the typical $40+ for pediatrics to a normal adult cost of around $32. It has also fostered closer ties between the nurses and the Nutrition Services Dept.
Authentic, Diverse, Appealing and Mission-Advancing
The culinary traditions of two continents in a single menu.
What: Mitsitam Cafe
Where: National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC
Project Team: Larry Ponzi (general manager-Restaurant Associates); Roland Banscher (Smithsonian Business Ventures); Duane Blue Spruce (NMAI); Andrew Ziobro, Gina Zimmer, Richard Hetzler and Lous Piuggi (all of Restaurant Associates); Fernando & Marlene Divina (consultants)
The Big Idea: How do you design a menu that reflects the vast array of culinary traditions of Native Americans from the Pacific Northwest and Great Plains down to Central and South America? And one that remains customer-friendly enough to tempt visitors? Balancing scholarly research with a savvy eye for what can successfully sell in a commercial operation, Mitsitam's rotating menu, developed by Restaurant Associates, features genuine Native American dishes from each of the five regions (North Woods, Great Plains, Northwest Coast, Central America and South America) at all times. Each is made with carefully sourced authentic ingredients and is augmented by customer-education materials designed to complement the institution's educational mission. The numbers reflect the success: over a fifth of museum visitors patronize Mitsitam, and pay a per-person check average of $12.25.
The Ultimate Food-As-Perk Operation
...also has the ultimate company-culturereflecting menu
What: "Charlie's Place" Cafe
Where: Google World Headquarters, Mountain View, CA
Project Team: Charlie Ayers (FSD), James Glass (sous chef/f&b mgr.), Nate Keller (sous chef), Josef Desimone, Shawn Thomas, Tony Castelucci, Allen Purdue, Raymond Nottie, Scott Lenau, Wade Tamura, Rafael Duran, Derek Rupp, Nicola Bucci, Kevin Ogle, Shanon Burum
The Big Idea: Google employees eat for free. That might argue for a pared down, filling-over-flavorful emphasis at some places. But at Google, pampering "Googlers" is a value, and that value is compromised with food compromises. Hence, the culinary staff works hard each day to provide a vast array of meal choices (between 20 and 30 daily at each of the five main stations) that meet the expectations of customers. Those expectations center on lots of vegetarian and vegan choices, exotic ethnic options and enough standards to satisfy comfort food longings for the especially stressed and irredeemably traditionalist. Of course, everything is prepared using the freshest (and in many cases organic, sustainable and/or natural) ingedients. That, after all, is also a Google value.
Menu as Age-Appropriate Teaching Tool
Meal ordering is only a part of the value of these colorful, interactive materials.
What: Pediatric Patient Menu
Where: The Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida and The Kids Place of Cape Coral Hospital, both units of Lee Memorial Health System, Ft. Myers, FL
Project Team: Larry Altier (system director-food & nutrition services), Deana Forehand,-Laura Ortiz, RN, Bruce Robicheau, Michele King, Emad Salman, MD, Irwin Kash, MD, Laura Ragain, Doug Cook, Jennifer Leonard, Brenda Ordonez, Laura Heare, RD, Diane Horton, RD, Kathy Bridge-Liles, RN
The Big Idea: Lee Memorial's pediatric menu successfully balances a number of goals: it gives information about a wide assortment of kid-friendly menu choices in an age-appropriate manner, but it is also an educational tool promoting healthy lifestyle (and food) choices and an interactive source of entertainment for bedbound children. It takes young patients through a five-step process that uses verbal (courtesy of dietary assistants dedicated to the pediatric ward), written and visual cues to stimulate and educate them on making healthy food and lifestyle choices, both in the hospital and after they leave. Based on the popular children's cartoon Dora the Explorer (dietary assistants visiting patients even dress in safari outfits to stay consistent with the theme), the elaborate menus have helped boost Press Ganey patient satisfaction scores from 75.2 to 94.4 since the program debuted last April.
Best Special Event
Going the Extra Mile for Volkswagen
...and the wurst was the best story of the night!
What: Oktoberfest Automotive Youth Scholarship Association Dinner
Where: Volkswagen of America Headquarters, Auburn Hills, MI
Project Team: Patrick Gazzarato (chef-Continental Services), Jackie Carden (event director)
The Big Idea: To make the Automotive Youth Scholarship dinner truly special for the many high-ranking international automotive executives in attendance, caterer Continental Services crafted a traditional German Oktoberfest celebration, complete with special touches such as opening the festivities by tapping a ceremonial beer keg with a wooden mallet. Meanwhile, the strolling menu, served from culinary stations arranged around the dining area, featured such traditional favorites as Westphalian ham, Spaetzle and Weiner Schnitzel. Continental especially wanted to add currywurst, a special sausage actually produced at Volkswagen's plant in Germany, but the product was not available in the United States due to USDA regulations. Undeterred, Continental's team managed to come up with a passable alternative, and the story of the search for the perfect wurst became the hit of the evening, while the curry wurst station became the most popular stop for diners.
UGA's theme event found an unusual subject with a great food tie-in