This spring, Sharp HealthCare cut the ribbon on the Sharp Prebys Innovation and Education Center (SPIEC), a four-story, 70,000-square-foot addition to the company’s headquarters that “promotes research, training, workforce development, innovation, education, and technology.” It features a simulation center to train caregivers, an immersion lab for research and spaces to host conferences and other learning events.
To fit in with the high-tech surroundings, Sodexo launched its Modern Recipe Café at the facility, a contactless concept that relies on technology to get food choices to customers quickly. A rotating menu features a wide variety of choices that are designed to make busy workdays and healthy eating more attainable for employees and visitors. It’s also a picturesque place for a lunch or a coffee break—the seating area features contemporary design and floor-to-ceiling windows that look out on campus landscaping.
Donna Serpico-Thompson, Sharp HealthCare’s vice president of business development, says SPIEC was “designed to enlighten and inspire…and the café totally matches that, not only in the aesthetic but in the food choices.”
The five-week menu includes a wide range of options at four main stations. Daily breakfast offerings include a hot cereal bar, a fruit and yogurt bar, a market and bakery, and a breakfast grill with options such as made-to-order eggs, sandwiches and omelets and rotating specials, like breakfast burritos, pancakes and loaded toasts.
At lunch, customers can choose from two fresh soups, made-to-order salads, a plant-based station, a global station and a grill. Select items include a harissa, cauliflower, and goat cheese salad; an autumn harvest grain salad; tamale pie; mushroom and spinach lasagna; Moroccan eggplant tagine; forest mushroom risotto; chicken arepa; beef barbacoa; daily and specialty pizzas…and the list goes on.
Cordialis Msora, RDN, Sodexo client executive, says they’re always thinking about helping customers balance their limited time with the desire to make healthy food choices.
“We know that people are always busy [and] when the time is not there, people will grab what is easiest. And oftentimes that’s not the healthiest choice,” she says. “But using the technology that we have right now and then providing people with healthier choices, we’re able to provide people with food that’s delicious, that increases productivity and cognitive function and that takes care of their whole being.”
The dining team makes all menu items fresh, in house. The kitchen, a 2,300-square-foot space located directly behind the café, also handles all catering for events at the facility. The kitchen includes a hot production line, prep areas, storage areas, two walk-ins and a freezer.
Michael DaShiell, Sodexo Healthcare’s vice president, operations, says the pillars of the Modern Recipe Café concept are “inspiring, healthy and responsible.” They source as many regional ingredients and value-added products as they can. Vendors shift, but a recent list included seven independent vendors (including dairy, meat, seafood and baked goods) and a distributor that sources from two farms and a ranch that are within 60 miles of the San Diego facility.
The café takes full advantage of the latest technology. People can order and pay in two ways: through a phone app or through one of the four kiosk stations located in the café itself. All food items are available only through contactless payment; no cashiers are located out front. They employ a total of 11 dining staff.
Back-of-house staff fill orders as they come in through the app or the kiosks and deliver them to designated pick-up spots (one for hot food, one for cold food, and one for beverages) when they’re ready. All orders are labeled with a sticker that includes the customer’s name and an itemized list. Simultaneously, the system alerts customers that it’s time to pick up their food.
This is the first health care setting where Sodexo has opened a Modern Recipe Café. The concept is well tested; they launched it in 2018.
DaShiell notes that the people who work at or visit the building “are coming for the innovation. So we wanted to make sure we did the same. We’re using the technology and the apps, so it’s not the kind of caféteria you’d see anywhere. We wanted to bring it up a notch.”
Asked if he thinks this is the future of corporate dining, he says he sees an upward trend, though he notes that a hospital or other patient care setting would likely require a hybrid approach.
Msora sees corporate customers leaning in. “It’s what people are looking for, right?” she says. “When you look at Modern Recipe, it is what is on trend, what’s coming, what is happening right now.”