Coffee Shop Percolates Sales and Satisfaction at University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics, Salt Lake City

Hospitals operate 24/7, meaning there is always staff on hand and someone, either a staff member or someone visiting the facility, is usually looking for something to eat or drink. To help meet that need University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics operates a licensed Starbucks Cafe that's open 24/7.

Innovator: Laura L. Robson, MPA, RD, CD, Director, Nutrition Care Service

Many customers come to the café multiple times during the day to receive their favorite beverages dispensed from this equipment. Photographs courtesy of University of Utah Hospitals and ClinicsPart of the hospital's retail program, Starbucks sits in the hospital's lobby and offers a menu of Starbucks-branded beverages, pastries and snacks. It also offers food made by the foodservice staff, including house-made sandwiches and entrée salads.

"Any item produced in-house must go through an approval process with Starbucks corporate," says Laura L. Robson, MPA, RD, CD, Director, Nutrition Care Service. "The recipe is sent to Starbucks with nutritional information. If the recipe is approved, we then call to schedule a day to send the actual products in the appropriate packaging overnight to Starbucks for sampling and review. The product is then approved or rejected. Once the items are approved, we can sell the products in the licensed store. This food program has been in effect for the past 11 years."

In January, University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics renovated the Starbucks Cafe. The renovation included a newly designed hot and cold beverage bar layout with additional merchandising equipment and finish changes. As part of the new layout, nutrition services staff introduced the Starbucks warming program that uses quick-speed ovens. The warmed menu includes breakfast sandwiches, wraps, stuffed pretzels and savory pastry squares. The retail shop also offers artisanal pastries from La Boulange, a San Francisco bakery that Starbucks owns.

"With the addition of the warming program and La Boulange, our check averages are trending upward," Robson says. Over the last 10 years, volume has increased by 62 percent.

While most foodservice operators design their menus by daypart, this facility takes a slightly different approach. "We serve most products 24 hours a day and do not focus on traditional daypart offerings," Robson says. She adds that the café offers customers a relaxed neighborhood gathering place for friends, families and hospital colleagues, and people don't feel they are in a hospital, thereby generating daily repeat business.

In May 2013 the hospital entered into its second 10-year license agreement with Starbucks. "Starbucks brings to the table business-savvy marketing, continuously introducing new products to keep up with current trends and expanding product offerings," Robson says. "We are held to the same standards as a corporate store and work closely with our Starbucks district manager to maintain Starbucks' standards."

New products roll out approximately every two months, which tie to seasons and holidays. "The auto-ship packages arrive with everything needed to introduce and provide the latest products including beverage recipes, ingredients, featured whole bean and ground coffees, pastries, mugs, travel cups and so on."

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