When the new NewYork-Presbyterian David H. Koch (DHK) Center opened in late April on the NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center (NYP/Weill) campus on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, it featured not only cutting-edge clinical and hospitality services but a rather out-of-the-box choice for operating its onsite dining: Restaurant Associates (RA), best known as a provider of premium dining services to fine-arts venues like the Metropolitan Museum, the Smithsonian and the Kennedy Center and high-end corporate clients like Google, Morgan Stanley and Hearst.
“We as an organization always strive to provide the best based on experience, not only clinical care but the best patient experience, and that includes foodservices,” says Mila Henn, vice president of support services at NYP/Weill, in explaining the selection of RA. “So when we started planning and designing the DHK Center, we decided to look at something different and very unique in the retail area.”
The reason RA was selected, she says, was because “they are known for innovation in food [as well as] high-quality and [incomparable] customer service. The building is designed with the patient in the center,” she adds, and NY-P wanted that same approach reflected in its dining offerings.
Indeed, beyond its cutting-edge clinical infrastructure and capabilities, such as its MRI/PET/angiography suite—the first of its kind in the world—the DHK Center brims with smart technology and smart spaces, all designed to make patient visits as smooth and pleasant as possible. For example, patients can complete their paperwork online before their appointment. Upon arrival, they get a personalized "smartband" that provides access to the building and provides information about their visit along with step-by-step directions to where they need to go.
On the dining side, RA operates a multistation main café called the Be Well Bistro, an adjacent coffee bar called the Be Well Express, plus the Café 68, located on a separate floor, which is reserved exclusively for staff.
Be Well Bistro includes the Hearth pizza/Mediterranean flatbread station, an entrée station called Explore that features various international-themed selections on a rotating basis, RA’s proprietary Rustico sandwich concept, a full-service grill featuring proteins from specialty purveyor Pat LeFrieda Meats as well as 50/50 burgers among its offerings, a salad concept where customers can choose from among 28 ingredients ranging from salmon and chicken to three different kinds of lettuce and have it custom prepared by a chef, and NYPBeHealthy, the hospital’s own wellness initiative that serves dishes such as shrimp and asparagus flatbread and a tuna wrap that meet NY-P’s wellness criteria.
One of the most popular choices so far has been the 50/50 burger: “I can’t keep them on the shelf!” exclaims Sean Collins, RA’s general manager at the DHK Center. The product is an RA-developed creation consisting of equal parts Pat LeFrieda ground beef and a vegan mushroom/jalapeno mixture, which is then served with white cheddar and caramelized onion ketchup on a brioche roll.
“While it’s only 50 percent beef, it’s still a very hardy and extremely delicious hamburger,” Collins comments.
NYPBeHealthy is the only concept particular to the location, he notes.
“However, we do work hand in hand with the [NY-P] dietary and nutritional team. We’re taking our own concepts that we use in RA throughout our business and adding a healthy spin to them to make sure they fit with what the hospital wants for their customers and clients.”
RA “is very flexible in integrating our nutritional requirements with their offerings and concepts, so our dietitians work very closely in menu development with Restaurant Associates,” Henn adds.
The Be Well Bistro is open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays while the Express extends those hours, operating from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Bistro is located prominently just beyond the main entrance of the DHK Center, with its seating area overlooking the soaring entrance lobby with a grand staircase—as well as an elevator—leading up to it.
Beyond operating the dining outlets, RA is also assisting in the facility’s wellness mission in other ways. For instance, it will work with NY-P dietitians in the recently opened Integrative Health and Wellbeing at NewYork-Presbyterian center on ways to educate patients to eat better.
“We’re going to take it beyond just offering food for purchase,” Henn comments. “Here at NY-P we believe food is medicine and RA is going to be really integral to helping us take that program to a higher level.”
Once that food as medicine area fully opens, “we’re looking at offering cooking classes with the chefs and doing specific chef’s tables, perhaps in different areas of the hospital just to educate patients on how to eat great but still eat healthy at the same time,” Collins adds.
Currently, the DHK Center serves only outpatients, but five of the structure’s floors are already slated for a new in-patient women’s and newborn’s hospital that is scheduled to debut in 2020. It will offer room service meals “at the highest level” and will be operated by RA.