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northwell-013.jpg Lessing’s Hospitality Group
Grab-and-go cases display a healthy variety of sandwiches, salads, snacks and more.

Reimagined Café Presents Fresh Alternative at Manhasset, N.Y., Hospital

North Shore University Hospital’s Bistro North Café caters to staff, visitors with gourmet coffee, chef-driven menu.

When Lessing’s Hospitality Group took over an idled café space at North Shore University Hospital, the company used the opportunity to pivot the space to best serve the appetites of its audience.

Formerly an Au Bon Pain, the 2,900-square-foot space in the Manhasset, N.Y., hospital had been a casualty of COVID. After a $1.1 million renovation, it emerged last fall as Bistro North Café. Located adjacent to the lobby, the café stays open 24 hours on weekdays and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends.

“Our goal in the design was to give the hospital guests and staff great options that they don’t serve in the cafeteria,” says Kevin Lessing, executive vice president of Lessing’s Food Service Management. The new operation cuts across several concepts with appeal for a broad cross section of guests visiting around the clock.

A top priority was a coffee upgrade.

“We wanted to add a full-service coffee bar, since so many of the employees work long shifts and they need the ability to get a great variety of coffee, from regular to cold brew and cappuccino,” Lessing says. Two baristas prepare coffee drinks using beans delivered weekly from a local roaster, Hampton Coffee. Other options include on-tap kombucha, acai bowls, smoothies and pastries.

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Bistro North Café stays open 24 hours on weekdays and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends.

A large cooler displays an extensive selection of grab-and-go items. It includes more than half a dozen sandwiches and salads, which change on a weekly basis, as well as parfaits, fruit cups, pudding and other snacks. These options are prepared in an offsite commissary nearby, and the coolers are restocked daily.

A self-serve bakery case displays an inviting variety of baked goods, all produced daily on site and rotated throughout the week “to keep it interesting,” Lessing says. Typically 20 to 30 pastries, cookies and cakes are available.

Another Bistro North Café station serves made-to-order hot entrees that rotate on a daily basis, Chef inspired, they are cooked before the guests’ eyes on induction burners. Meals include choices such as salmon and asparagus with rice or short ribs with broccolini and potatoes. Adjacent to the made-to-order station a selection of ready-to-go hot meals, paninis and sandwiches cooked on the premises are available as well.

A themed fast-casual station that changes each week serves rice bowls, burritos and other items. Lessing says about half a dozen concepts are in rotation.

Finally, the mix of options includes a salad bar displaying about 30 ingredients. The station does double duty in the early morning as a breakfast bar.

“The café has a lot of offerings for the size of the space,” Lessing says.

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Bakery items are a popular choice at Bistro North Café.

The café, not surprisingly, brings in both hospital employees and visitors. It is operated independently of other foodservice options at the hospital. “We’re really an amenity to the building,” Lessing says.

The space is normally packed during lunch hours. The 30 seats fill up quickly, but many customers opt for takeout. At the busiest times about a dozen staffers run the café, while four team members can handle orders at night.

Thanks in large part to the coffee bar, drinks rule at Bistro North Café. Lessing estimates about 40 percent of sales come from coffee and other beverages, with grab-and-go items accounting for another 20 percent. Hot entrees are also popular.

The $1.1-million makeover also involved a technology upgrade. The café now offers guests online ordering with contact-free pickup, a robust POS system and a loyalty program.

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