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Growing the Business

Corporate Café brings in the customers, has them leaving satisfied.

The renovated Metro 1 Cafe at the Northern California campus of financial services giant Visa has been a great success since its re-opening in January. The cafe, managed by Eurest, has seen a participation increase of around 10 percent while maintaining its pre-renovation check average of $5.30—with no price increase.

“One thing Visa had was an absolute clarity about what they wanted the foodservice to provide for their associates,” says Eurest District General Manager Peter Barnett about the understanding underlying the completion of Metro 1. “They want as many of their associates eating onsite every day as possible so that they’re super productive. They also want the cafe to be an enhancement to the associate’s experience in the workplace.”

When Metro 1 reopened after six months, customer habits shifted in beneficial ways, he adds. “Before the construction, about 40 percent of patrons ate in the dining room. Afterwards, 60 percent did and our paper and disposable usage has dropped as a result.”

The renovated space has a number of new features, including…

• a new Rise ‘n Dine breakfast concept,

• a Starbucks branded credit card payment espresso machine operable round the clock

• a Chef ’s Corner entree station that switches out its menu concept daily, giving the cafe a place to run special themed choices such for holidays

• a zip-through cashless system,

• a Woodstone oven that produces pizzas and other hot delicacies,

• a grill with a pager ordering system,

• Eurest’s proprietary Whole + Sum healthy dining station,

• Coca-Cola’s new Freestyle fountain that dispenses over a hundred different beverages.

Also, a Starbucks branded coffee bar offers full service from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Careful Research on Concepts

“Visa was very clear about what they wanted in this cafe,” offers John Venegas, regional director for Eurest’s Northern California operations.

“We worked closely with them in determining the stations and the concepts, taking the successful Eurest food programs and adapting them based on the demographics and interest of the staff. We held focus groups and used cash register POS data, our production records, and previous menu successes. We had been operating here for close to a year before the renovation, so we had historical data we could bring to our division chef and marketing team as we developed a food program we could present to Visa.”

The result was a menu mix that emphasizes ethnic and exhibition concepts while providing variety, healthful options and fresh, often to-order preparation.

The culinary hits start coming in the morning, where Eurest’s Rise ‘n Dine breakfast concept has produced a 10% increase in morning participation. On average, more than 300 guests stop for breakfast in the 7:30 to 10 am serving window.

“Rise and Dine is a little different than your traditional grill, where you’re cooking your eggs off of a flat griddle.” Barnett explains. “We do it at the exhibition station where we have gas burners and custom cook the omelets in clarified butter to order.” The Eurest concept, a little over a year old, saw one of its first implementations at Visa.

For those looking for breakfast type selections after Rise ‘n Dine shuts down, there is a new Starbucks branded kiosk just outside the cafe perimeter. It’s open until 4 pm daily and sells pastries, fruit parfaits, sandwiches, salads and desserts along with the Starbucks hot beverage line.

The kiosk includes an interruption table that displays the day’s dessert offerings, which can be purchased at the kiosk as well as inside the cafe. “People purchase some of the higher end items, like dessert bars and cake, out of the kiosk during lunch when it serves as a third register,” Barnett says.

Watching the Chefs

Another popular draw is Chef ’s Corner, which offers different concepts each day from the campus executive chef, suppliers (including local growers) or even successful local restaurants.

“We do everything from Vietnamese pho to a pasta toss to Martin Yan’s stir fry program,” Barnett says proudly. “We’ve also discovered that a partnership Eurest has with a Mediterranean food company called Souk Foods has been very popular. We brought their executive chef in to present their program to our Visa patrons and to train our crew.”

Other cuisines recently featured at Chef ’s Corner include Korean, Thai and Indian from area restaurants. “Our site population is sophisticated in terms of culinary tastes, and they like to see unique items offered. This helps us do that,” says Venegas.

Customer suggestions have fingered some of the participants, who must meet business and operational requirements set by Eurest. For their part, the restaurants get the promotional advantage of interacting with a large set of potential new customers.

The Woodstone hearth oven does a lot more than pizzas, says Barnett (in fact, he jokes, there is a prohibition on calling it a “pizza oven”). It does produce individual pizzas (whole pies are made only for catered
events), but also other kinds of entrees like western chicken, ribs, fish, baked goods, cobblers and other desserts.

The grill station has been streamlined with a pre-order system that lets customers fill out an order sheet, then grab an electronic pager and continue to shop other stations. The grill’s pickup window is on the other side of the checkout.

“It took a little time to train customers,” Barnett says, “but now they really like it because we don’t have a bunch of people standing around the grill.” It also helps build business by negating the “long line” discouragement factor.

Another popular stop is the Mexican themed Taqueria. But rather than simply being another station with daily selections, it features a static menu focused on burritos, soft and crispy tacos, nachos, quesadillas, tostadas, taco salads and the like. The variety and extent of fresh ingredients ranging from produce to seafood available in the Bay Area
makes the Taqueria’s offerings fresh and appealing to a sophisticated customer base.

“We decided to keep the menu fixed because it lets customers who can’t find something elsewhere in the café know that they can always go to the Taqueria and get something they would enjoy,” explains Barnett.

Creating Buzz

“We were also asked to have a signature concept and the Taqueria gives us a destination restaurant.”

One of the biggest draws has been the Freestyle beverage fountain, one of the first placed by Coca-Cola in an onsite location. It dispenses 106 different flavors that customers can combine as they wish.

“It got incredible buzz right off the bat,” says Barnett. “Even today, when the company brings tours of new employees through, they always make sure to point out the Freestyle.”

Also creating buzz has been the rollout strategy. “On pre-opening week, we opened up a station a day,” says Barnett. “Visa would then invite 50 people from a different department each day to come down and sample the food. That allowed us to have a dry run and give future customers a chance to get familiar with the café, while also generating
buzz throughout the company for the actual opening. So far, it’s worked very well.”

[For more details of the redesigned space, go

Lunch for 600 Calories

One of the features of the Metro 1 Café at Visa is the inclusion of a Whole + Sum station, a concept developed and rolled out by Compass
Group late last year. Metro 1 is one of its first locations. Whole + Sum is a healthy dining concept based on portion control. Each of the customizable meal selections containing vegetable, whole grain and protein components is under 600 calories with under 20 grams of fat and under 600 mg of sodium. Selections include Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Latin American and Asian cuisines as well as American favorites.

Unit managers and chefs must complete a 10-module online course before they can implement Whole + Sum in their locations.

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