The dining room and patient meal production kitchen at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center recently received a multi-phase remodel.
The first phase of the renovation, completed this past February, gave the patient dining kitchen a complete overhaul of its workspace and equipment so that patient meals can now be prepared under a true room service model that operates like hotel room service. Menus now are provided to patients based on their physician prescribed diet, offering multiple choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner, giving patients the flexibility to choose when and what they want to eat.
The second phase of the renovation added a new retail operation in Café 8901 where diners can now enjoy new meal options such as freshly baked brick oven pizza, a large selection of fresh produce and salads and made to order panini breakfast sandwiches. In addition, some of the old favorite stations like Chef’s Table, the Grille, Fit and Flavorful, World Bistro and the Deli have been retained.
Café 8901’s new menu now conforms the new Go for Green program endorsed by the Department of Defense Food and Nutrition Subcommittee. Designed to help diners in military establishments choose nutrient dense foods and beverages, Go for Green labels foods that enhance performance, readiness, health and well-being with a green marker. Foods that are a good source of vitamins, minerals and overall nutrition but have some added fats and/or sugar are labeled yellow, while low performance foods that should be eaten only occasionally and have the highest amounts of fat and sugar are labeled red.
Menu development for Café 8901 began prior to the integration of the Navy and Army medical facilities in August 2011. “Taking the best that each facility had to offer and continuing to build upon those concepts, we closely review what the customer tells us via customer surveys and comment cards,” says Army Col. Melanie Craig, director of Walter Reed’s Nutrition Services Dept.. “Variety tends to be an important focus for our customers. As one of many challenges we took into consideration, we designed the facility to have a range of venues that allows for greater variety of meal options.”
Food That's Fit, Varied and Flavorful
Renovation plans also included installing a performance station to spotlight Café 8901’s signature Fit & Flavorful entrees and salads, a rotisserie station and a state-of-the-art executive dining room. A new grab-and-go meal service operation, known as 8901 Express was also introduced in the renovated facility, which offers meal service from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Patient meal hours are available from 6 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.
“There were several behind-the-scene improvements of the food service operations, which greatly improved the work environment for staff,” Col. Craig offers. They included the employee locker rooms, the call center that supports inpatient meals and the department’s main supply areas.
“We worked intently, for two years, on the design and plans for this much needed renovation,” Col. Craig says. “The renovation ultimately gutted the entire food service operation, taking it down to the studs. The entire Nutrition Services team was energized by the positive and many upgrades that the renovation brought.”
The major overhaul allowed Café 8901 to incorporate venues such the World Bistro, an international bar featuring a different menu special each day of the week. These include Taco Tuesday, Asian Bar and Mediterranean Day, which offers an array of Mediterranean salads, hummus, and the like.
The Fit & Flavorful station menus flavorful but healthy meal option with less than 550 calories while the Brick Oven, the newest venue, offers five types of pizza each day with a special of the day.
“The staff researched this option closely, talking to some of the best local pizzerias in the Washington DC area and as a result we now make our own dough and sauce and designed the recipes for the pizzas,” Col. Craig says.
In addition to incorporating the DoD’s nutrition standards and Go For Green program, the goals of the renovations at Walter Reed included providing a more pleasurable dining experience for customers and comfortable work environment for the staff. The project also nearly doubled dining room seating capacity to more than 500 and improved heating, ventilation and air conditioning, as well as customer flow.