Given a chance to go off campus during lunch period, high school students tend to opt for the nearest fast food joint or c-store. Students at Southridge (Wash.) High School, however, are picking a different option, the retail café at the brand new Trios Southridge Hospital located just across the street. Called Bistro 52, the eatery serves a menu of pizzas, salads, burgers, fries, grilled sandwiches, soups and entrees, many packed for grab and go.
The hospital had anticipated the potential additional demand when the school year started, says Trios Southridge Nutrition Services Director Alexandria Arriaga. “A lot of parents toured through our café with their kids over the summer and asked if we would offer a meal service for them,” she says. “It’s really the only option in the immediate area. Other than us, the closest places to get food are about a mile down the road, which is very difficult to get to in the short lunch period the kids have.”
A separate checkout is set up to serve the students so they don’t clog the register meant for hospital staff and visitors, though if that line isn’t busy students can use either one.
About 60 students visit Bistro 52 on an average day, with up to 80 on busier ones. The daily rush usually starts just before 11 a.m. and is over well before noon, when, conveniently, the majority of adult customers start coming in for lunch.
Most of the students pay with cash, though the hospital also offers declining balance gift cards that can be used at Bistro 52. The check average for the students is in the $5-to-$6 range, Arriaga says.
Burgers and other items from the grill, along with pizza, fries and chicken strips are, not surprisingly, the most popular items, with the artisan sandwiches and daily entrées less so. Girls also like the salads, either from the Field of Greens create-your-own station or prepackaged options, and many students take their food back to the school to eat.
Arriaga says the influx of teens has not been a disruption or a problem. “They are very well behaved,” she notes.
Operational changes at the café necessitated by the daily student influx include more preprep of pizzas to ensure enough is ready and waiting when the students come in, and “we also have to keep more fries in stock,” Arriaga says jokingly.
Otherwise, the menu, created by the hospital’s executive chef, has not been altered to fit the students. Bistro 52 obviously is under no USDA restrictions deriving from the National School Lunch Program regulations, but Arriaga says the food at the café is a very healthy alternative to the school’s own cafeteria.
“Just about everything is made fresh and from scratch because we want to make sure our own employees eat healthy,” she notes. “We use a lot of fresh produce and other quality ingredients. The students who eat here get a good, nutritious lunch.”
Trios Southridge, which opened this past July, has 75 beds. Its production kitchen offers room service dining to patients on site and also at the adjacent Women and Children’s Hospital.