Oatrageous is an action station concept where customers engage with chefs while they watch them pan-sear steel-cut oatmeal, and then choose from a variety of made-to-order toppings like cherries jubilee, bananas foster and apple compote to finish their orders off. The concept was developed by TouchPoint Support Services chefs Matt Luangla and Neil Christman in response to a challenge issued by the company to its chefs at its culinary summit last year to create a new retail concept to address the nationwide egg shortage.
A unit of Compass Group, TouchPoint provides food and environmental services to more than 140 Ascension Health hospitals throughout the U.S. Oatrageous is primarily operated in the company’s larger hospitals with executive chefs, which constitute about 43 percent of accounts.
Early sales had shown successful outcomes. In a pilot account that did roughly $1,000 a day in breakfast sales, the Oatrageous action station represented about 30 percent of sales, a positive development as at a price point of $3.59 it is three times more profitable than the traditional oatmeal that typically sells for $1. Plus, customers have shown that they love the taste of the upgraded oatmeal offering and that they can customize the toppings.
Financial costs for development and implementation for the concept were relatively low since the idea was sparked by TouchPoint associates. After initial conceptualization, additional labor to further refine the concept totaled only about $600, with a professional photo shoot and development of marketing materials adding another $1,200, clearly a minimal investment compared to the program’s potential to positively impact operations’ bottom lines.
Once the concept was accepted for rollout to multiple TouchPoint units, the company’s marketing team developed supporting materials such as a manager’s guide, digital signage and posters. This marketing package was posted on the company intranet for foodservice directors and executive chefs to download, print and display in accounts, and they executed the concept in their operations with support from regional corporate executive chefs.
Initially, Oatrageous offered TouchPoint customers an attractive alternative to the omelet station, a traditionally popular choice in TouchPoint cafes during the breakfast daypart that had been ravaged by the avian flu epidemic’s impact on egg prices and availability. At the time, the TouchPoint culinary team was challenged with creating an alternative breakfast offering that had the same value perception as a made-to-order omelet station.
At a slightly higher price point than other breakfast options, Oatrageous appeals to customers looking for an attractive, non-traditional offering with the accompaniment of an interactive customer experience.
Customers include doctors, nurses, patients and visitors to the hospitals, with doctors and nurses comprising the largest percentage of the repeat customer base.
“Today, Oatrageous is exceeding initial expectations as a fully operational food station,” says Calvin Neal, TouchPoint’s vice president of culinary and retail. “This concept born out of a national food crisis is now a staple for many of our facilities and allows for further modifications with flavors and additions.”
It also “made our culinarians think proactively about how to be agile to market changes,” he adds. “The concept demonstrates our commitment as a company to foster out-of-the-box thinking [and] proves that any associate can have a great idea that could shape our business in an impactful way.”
And, he concludes, “Oatrageous has taken plain, low-margin oatmeal and elevated it to a level where it’s a showpiece item that commands premium prices. It’s turned oatmeal into an experience.”