Each day, hundreds of employees convene at Jackson Healthcare’s Atlanta headquarters to improve the lives of more than seven million patients in over 1,300 healthcare facilities across the country. Jackson, a healthcare staffing and technology company, recently overhauled its on-site dining service to great success, underscoring that its commitment to wellness begins with the foodservice enjoyed by its own employees.
Atlanta Business Chronicle recently named Jackson the city’s “Best Place to Work” in 2014 and 2015 as well as “Healthiest Large Company” in 2015. “Food is a huge part of that,” says Leslie Day-Harrell, vice president of property management for Jackson Healthcare. “The main way we touch the majority of our building population every day is through our company café. It’s our chance to greatly impact what it means to work here.”
A year and a half ago Jackson brought on Sterling Spoon Culinary Management to transition its café from Ciao, a standard but unremarkable dining room, to Ciao Bella, a restaurant-quality café with an acclaimed Tuscan chef and Mediterranean-inspired menu.
“We had decent participation for a building of this size,” Day-Harrell says of the 160,000-square-foot space and 650 employees, “but we really transformed our whole approach towards food. Now we have a daily participation rate of 65 percent.”
The new chef, Gianni Betti, graduated from culinary school in Florence, Italy, and opened an acclaimed restaurant in Atlanta’s trendy Buckhead neighborhood. Now in the kitchen at Jackson, his chicken parmigiana and lasagna are big crowd pleasers, Day-Harrell says, and are complemented by other epicurean, healthy and convenient meal options.
For instance, Ciao Bella features a toss station where employees can choose choice from 45 ingredients to custom-order salads and sandwiches. Each day, the café also offers four fresh proteins such as red meat, chicken, fish and a special such as vegetarian meatloaf. “We purchased TurboChef ovens, so that in three minutes, customers can have a protein cooked to order. Literally by the time staff serves the sides, the meat is ready as if it has been slow cooked in a restaurant,” Day-Harrell says. “It’s absolutely amazing.”
Ciao Bella also uses a farm-to-fork approach incorporating ingredients from Jackson’s own onsite half-acre organic garden as well as local vegetables sourced from within 100 miles of Atlanta.
Chef Betti also partners with the onsite fitness facility to offer 400-calorie-or-less meals and gluten-free options. “Our customers are very conscious of health,” says Day-Harrell, “so we want them to feel good about what they’re putting in their bodies.”
At Jackson, however, wellness doesn’t stop at food. “We focus on a holistic approach to nourishment not only with the menu but with the emotional connection to people,” Day-Harrell says. “We see the dining room as Jackson’s energy center, where associates from all of our two dozen companies get together, whereas they might not see each other otherwise.”
To match the restaurant-quality food, management made big upgrades to the café’s décor to evoke a comfortable, casual but still elegant ambiance. Reminiscent of a rustic Italian farm, Ciao Bella now features more woodwork with expansive columns and reclaimed barn wood for cabinetry. One of the most popular places to sit is a handmade Tuscan farm table that seats 12 on communal benches.
“Our customer service is also very different than what we had before,” adds Day-Harrell. “It’s all very energized and the staff greets employees by name.”
Providing delicious and healthy food in a beautiful space has paid off. Jackson’s overall foodservice sales have increased 73 percent, the number of daily guests has increased by 38 percent and catering sales are up by 25 percent.
What’s more remarkable, Day-Harrell says, is that there are plenty of other places to eat within one mile. “But where else can you get a beautiful piece of salmon and two sides for $6?”
Of course the subsidized prices help, but it’s clear that Jackson’s employees are choosing to dine at Ciao Bella for more than just savings. “We hear from associates that they feel so happy in the dining room and that they don’t want to leave. They also say that seeing the company put resources into such top-quality foodservice makes them feel so cared for.”