Amanzi_Farms_Lettuce_Pond.jpeg Amanzi Farms
Fresh Healthy Café sources much of its produce from nearby Amanzi hydroponic farm.

Healthy café operator opens first hospital location

Fresh Healthy Café at St. Francis Medical Center in Missouri extends the restaurant brand into a natural onsite environment—a healthcare facility.

Staff and visitors at the St. Francis Medical Center (SFMC) in Cape Girardeau, Mo., now have a convenient, attractive venue for getting healthy food and drink with the January opening of the hospital’s new Fresh Healthy Café.

Located next to SFMC’s fitness center, Fresh Healthy Café is the first unit of the FRESH Restaurants brand to open on a healthcare campus. The chain has 23 other locations around the U.S., primarily in malls and other retail clusters, as well as four in Canada and two in the Middle East. One of the U.S. locations is located in Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta.

Fresh Healthy Café specializes in bowls, salads, wraps and paninis filled with healthful, fresh ingredients such as quinoa, dragon fruit, berries, spinach and avocado, plus healthy beverages ranging from fresh-squeezed juices and organic tea to smoothies with ingredients like kale, pomegranate and acai.

The concept’s emphasis on healthy, fresh offerings made extension into a healthcare environment pretty much a natural move, notes Rick Hetzel, co-owner of the Fresh Healthy Café at St. Francis.

“To us, the location is a no-brainer,” he explains. “The location is right in the heart of our demographic. It not only provides good, healthy food to people who already work in the healthcare industry but it also provides an opportunity for those coming in who may have some type of issue where good, healthy food can make a difference in their lives.”

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The specific tabbing of St. Francis as the chain’s inaugural healthcare location came from a pre-existing relationship.

“My wife and I have had a relationship with St. Francis Medical Center for quite a while,” Hetzel explains. “In fact, she used to be one of the managers there, so we approached the management about the possibility of partnering with them on putting this restaurant in.”

Once launched, the chain’s standard menu didn’t need much tweaking to fit the healthcare environment, though the café does work with clinicians to create specific offerings for patients in need of particular offerings such as high antioxidant shakes.

“We don’t add it to our menu but we are certainly willing to prepare it for them,” Hetzel says. “We do have nutritional information on every recipe, [so] we try to stay consistent for that reason, but if you come in and you want additional kale or something that’s not part of the recipe, we always try to accommodate our customers.”

This isn’t a particular problem as everything is prepared fresh and to order, so substitutions and deletions are easily made.

Some of the fresh ingredients are sourced from Amanzi Farms, a hydroponic farm located about a half hour away that is in part owned by Hetzel and his wife, Cheryl Mothes, “so much of our produce is provided directly from our hydroponics farm right to the restaurant,” Hetzel explains. In addition, he adds, “FRESH corporate encourages all the franchises to purchase locally as far as possible. We are also good community partners, doing a lot of fundraising.”

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The space now occupied by the Fresh Healthy Café is located next to the hospital’s fitness center and formerly housed a coffee/snack bar.

“It has very good traffic flow though it’s not at the main entrance, but it is an area of the hospital that is very visible and also frequented daily by hundreds of people visiting the doctors’ offices near the fitness center,” Hetzel says.

The hours—6 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the week and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends—were initially set to align with those of the fitness center.

“The thing we really looked hard at is, where is our demographic?” Hetzel explains. “The beauty of this location for us was that, first, the [number of] people coming in from the fitness center was significant, and then we have the people coming to the doctors’ offices, who really want to learn more about eating healthy.”

Plus, not incidentally, he adds, there’s about 3,000 employees at SFMC, who are there regularly and form a natural repeat customer base.

Making it easier for hospital staff to patronize Fresh Healthy Café is a preorder service. Delivery to two major departments inside the hospital is currently being piloted, while an off-site delivery service through a local firm called CarGO has already been booming, Hetzel says.

“We get lots of CarGO orders, especially on the weekends, when people want to eat fresh, healthy food, but they don’t want to come to the [hospital] to get it.”

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