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Best of Show: Citi global headquarters/Restaurant Associates

From wide, customer-oriented variety and high-tech convenience to value pricing and advanced sustainability features, the Restaurant Associates dining operation at Citi global headquarters brims with innovation and sophistication.

Customers who patronize Three Eighty Ate, the in-house food hall at the global headquarters of the Citi financial firm in the Tribeca neighborhood of New York City, are in for multiple treats.

Perhaps most prominently, they can choose to eat from 15 separate station concepts serving dishes ranging from barbecue made with in-house smokers, rotisserie-cooked meats, pizza from a 1,000-degree wood-burning oven and a salad bar to salad/grain bowls, high-protein/low-carb options, made-to-order sushi and even selections from a dedicated vegetarian/vegan bar.

Convenience is afforded by a high-tech mobile-order/automated pick-up option for deli orders, multiple self-checkout stations scattered across the servery and several 24/7 micromarkets located around the premises for those working off-hours.

best_concepts_bug_v2.jpgThere’s also value combined with an eye to waste reduction in the Fast Track program, a daily flash sale of entrées for $5.95 and half-priced desserts between 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. that helps deplete excess production.

Sustainability and environmental consciousness are also served through efforts that include local sourcing—including from three onsite hydroponic gardens—the use of compostable containers and straws and of an aerobic digester that converts kitchen scraps to environmentally friendly water.

Hitting the streets

“We wanted to get away from it being a ‘canteen’ or cafeteria to being an employee restaurant,” explains Andrew Burroughs, director/global head of dining, conferencing & fitness services for Citi Global Executive Services, about the thinking behind Three Eighty Ate, which replaced an older, smaller, more traditional onsite café operation at the complex. “[We wanted it] going to a level where your experience would be no different than going out to the street.”

“The street” is a big deal for the in-house dining operation at Citi in New York because the company’s headquarters complex sits in the midst of one of the world’s most diverse and accessible dining environments. Employees literally only have to walk out the door to find dozens of lunch options.

How do you combat that? Citi and its dining services partner, Restaurant Associates (RA), did it by first casing the competition and then trying to do them one—or more—better.

“We knew that fast-casual neighborhood competitors attracted hundreds of Citi employees every day for lunch,” notes Jessica Fink, marketing & hospitality manager for RA at Citi. “If we wanted our colleagues to stay in the building, we had to compete—we had to beat these restaurants at their own game.”

So RA designed concepts that play off some of the most popular street options while making them more attractive. For instance, the Bowl salad station competes with popular salad spots by not only offering similar dressings and more toppings but also lower prices and a shorter walk.

The Better For You healthy dining bar offers the high-protein and low-carb entrées some street restaurants do but is much more transparent in providing information like calorie counts.

One area Citi’s in-house dining program was lacking before the advent of Three Eighty Ate last October was an online ordering option, which drew business away to off-site alternatives that offered that convenience. That has now been rectified with Three Eighty Ate’s deli, which offers customers the option of using touchscreen kiosks in the servery or a mobile app or desktop website to place orders from afar.

For even more convenience, the deli also stays open an extra hour—until 3 p.m. daily—and guests can pick up remote orders from a high-tech VICKI machine from vendor ViaTouch by punching in a code they receive via text that opens the shelf with their order. This high-tech service required RA and Citi to integrate the online ordering system from Takeout Technologies, the Agilysis POS system and ViaTouch for a seamless order/pay/pickup process.

“Many boutique restaurants in our Downtown NYC neighborhood cure, smoke and grow their own ingredients in-house, but we upped the ante by doing it for the masses in our very own space,” Fink adds about another attractive aspect of Three Eighty Ate.


She cites the BBQ station, left, with its smoker turning out selections like pulled pork, KC-style ribs, wings, brisket and pastrami; the rotisserie with its whole roasted chickens, legs of lamb, pork roasts, etc.; the Al Forno Italian station with its thousand-degree hickory/oak/cherry-wood-burning oven that turns out Neapolitan pizzas and breakfast skillets; and the three hydroponic gardens—two in the production kitchen and one at the Better For You station—that turns out micro greens, broccoli and herbs like micro basil, cilantro and yuzu for use in site-prepared dishes.

Healthy moves

Health and wellness needs are served both by Better For You, which combines and expands on existing wellness programs with such daily offerings as grain bowls, smoothies, juices, market plates and salads, but with a 100% vegetarian self-serve station that incorporates plenty of vegan and even raw dishes.

Furthermore, each station in Three Eighty Ate also has small wellness swaps available, such as sweet potatoes at the rotisserie station, brown rice at the sushi station and flatbreads at Al Forno, and deli sandwich prices are dropped to $6 when purchased with healthy alternatives to traditional chips. Citi’s in-house Live Well fitness center’s registered dietitian is also available to give free tours of the café to advise guests on how to create the best meal for each individual’s nutritional needs or preferences.

Three Eighty Ate is part of a much larger renovation/expansion project at the Citi global headquarters complex, which is still ongoing. Among additions in the construction of finishing stages are a new grab-and-go outlet called Bronx Market that will sell both hot and cold takeout foods; a licensed Starbucks and a newsstand selling sundries in the building’s Town Square atrium space; a terrace juice bar on the building’s 14th floor adjacent to the fitness center and, at some point, a rooftop garden; and a town hall space in the building atrium that will serve as a gathering and collaboration space.

Meanwhile, Three Eighty Ate is already fulfilling its function as a communal dining/socializing space that keeps employees in-house, as it saw a 46% year-on-year increase in lunch covers in its first month.

“Population patterns and data from the first quarter of operations show that Citi colleagues were spreading out and trying new things, always taking advantage of the variety of stations and choices now available,” Fink notes. “Seating areas are filling to the brim all day, especially in the afternoons when colleagues are holding informal meetings over an afternoon coffee from [the Express coffee shop].”

And that’s just what was intended, says Burroughs.

“The purpose of our new employee food hall is to create a global hub for the firm,” he explains. “When we were in the planning stages, we knew that our vision of bringing everyone together had to go further than new working spaces. Our colleagues needed a place to meet outside of their floors, to bounce ideas around and work collaboratively. I saw bits of this in our old café—senior leadership chatting with new analysts in line, folks from different businesses sharing a table—and we wanted to build on it even further.”

For a quick photo tour of Three Eighty Ate, go here.

All photos courtesy of Restaurant Associates/ Citi.

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