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Best New Facility: Food Hall, Hyatt Corp./Fooda

Instead of a traditional café with fixed, everyday stations, Hyatt Corp. partnered with Fooda to create a food hall populated by a rotation of local restaurant brands.

In the spring of 2017, Hyatt Corp. relocated its corporate headquarters to a newly constructed facility on North Riverside Plaza in Chicago. As part of the relocation, the company partnered with Fooda, a firm that connects business clients looking for high-quality in-house meal service with local restaurants, to operate the onsite dining program, and invested $1.2 million to build a food hall for its associates. The program integrates a daily rotation of local restaurant pop-ups along with meals created and served by Hyatt’s executive chef.

Hyatt has traditionally provided a subsidy to its associates and the company has continued to do the same with its new Food Hall. In addition to the meals from the local restaurants and in-house chef, the program includes a full barista coffee program and bar and, hence, the Food Hall is considered a full-service amenity for Hyatt associates.

“Associates voiced that they wanted something new, and Hyatt listened,” says Steve O’Brien, vice president for enterprise sales at Fooda. “Hyatt wanted to encourage employees to stay in for lunch, and enhance colleague collaboration and creativity. The solution was to create a Fooda Food Hall by bringing in local restaurants.”

Participation is running 10 percent higher than forecast and the Hyatt Food Hall has accomplished its goal of serving as the hub for associates to gather and enjoy high-quality food, O’Brien adds. “Overall, the feedback from people we serve is that Fooda is one of their top perks at work.”

Hyatt’s associates seem excited about the opportunity to support local restaurants and discover new ones they haven’t tried before in a shared space within their headquarters. The exposure also often leads to visits by Hyatt associates to participating eateries’ regular locations.

Hyatt is one of five locations for Fooda’s cafeteria replacement concept.

To design the new corporate headquarters, Hyatt engaged the Gensler design/architecture firm’s Managing Director/Principal Randy Howder to create a space that is completely centered around the concept of hospitality. His design is purposefully “experiential” and is meant to invoke the feeling of staying at a modern hotel, while the decision to create a Food Hall with local restaurants is an example of the company being a leader in workplace strategy.

The “standouts were the client’s progressive values and willingness to push the boundaries of workplace strategy, paired with respect and admiration for design,” Howder told Interior Design Magazine about the project. “It’s Hyatt’s new, hospitality-infused front door.”

One result of the new facility and its innovative Food Hall was to help Hyatt achieve a top 10 ranking for the first time in Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” listing in 2018.

The two main goals of the Hyatt Food Hall were to deliver a unique, ever-changing restaurant solution that focused on the Hyatt brand and on health and wellness, and to provide a sustainable dining solution with conservation and carbon footprint reduction in mind. These goals were reached with menus that focused on portion control, calorie counts, and limits on fat, sodium and additives. Natural meats raised without supplemental growth hormones or antibiotics are also part of offering healthy options, as are the gluten-free and vegan options available.

All food items in the Food Hall also offer full nutritional information provided by a registered dietitian and delivered on iPad stations. Fooda manages a sustainable dining solution at Hyatt by only serving food on recyclable products.

With the Food Hall, Hyatt specifically targets employees who work in its building, many of who are too busy to leave the office for a healthy, appealing lunch and the Food Hall model is designed to be appealing to different generations while answering a trending demand for authenticity and variety in cuisine types.

Employees also no longer have to leave their workplace in inclement weather if they are searching for authentic restaurant food. Instead, they have access to highly rated national and local restaurants, many coming from outside of the building’s neighborhood, so employees can try restaurants that they would not have been exposed to otherwise.

As an example of a day at a Fooda Food Hall, diners can pick from a Mexican restaurant selling gourmet tamales, a Cajun restaurant with world-famous jambalaya or a burger bar that was featured on The Food Network. The meals cost the same, or less in some cases, than they would at the restaurants.

While the move didn’t occur until April 2017, Hyatt began marketing Fooda to its associates two months earlier with collateral distributed to all employees via email, as well as onsite signage with branded content. Now, iOS and Android apps inform users of each day’s visiting restaurants and the lineup for the rest of each week (there is also an option to receive this information through daily opt-in emails).

“The Fooda Food Hall concept is all about bringing in high-quality local restaurants, reclaiming floor space and reducing overhead,” O’Brien summarizes. “For Hyatt, the Fooda model was customized to include their executive chef, who is serving his food side by side with the restaurants. We also paid special attention to the company’s culture and the space, which is designed like a beautiful hotel lobby.”

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