A small linear retail location barely met the needs of visitors and staff at Aurora Medical Center Kenosha for many years. But an ever-expanding outpatient population paired with the hospital's expansion to 73 inpatient beds eventually rendered the existing space insufficient.
"The café was outdated, selections were limited due to café design and equipment necessity, customer flow was congested and café seating was limited," says Bruce Parker, system retail and catering manager, Aurora System food and nutrition services. "We wanted a café with a fresh new look and to expand the space to disperse retail customers more evenly. And we wanted to create a retail experience that would help drive higher revenues and increase customer satisfaction."
Finding the space to expand and meet goals of what was named Infinity Café proved challenging for the project team. "The coffee shop had a linear shape with only one service line, and back access only to bakery and cold cases," says Christine Guyott, FCSI, RD, principal at Robert Rippe & Associates, the project's foodservice design consultant. "Therefore, the space didn't allow staff to change to self-serve options in low-volume traffic periods. Additional space was critically needed to make this into a right-size retail café."
However, the project could not add any additional space to the building, so the design team used a former seating space to enlarge the servery to 1,235 square feet. The café also includes a 1,500-square-foot seating area that can accommodate 88 people. A corridor divides the seating area in half, yet allows natural light to penetrate into both areas. A new café feature is a private dining room.
The larger space allows for increased and better traffic flow, giving customers much more room to see menu options, which also increased substantially. For example, a grill station with a flattop features a new gourmet burger concept called Hungry Burgers as well as daily specials. The entrée station contains an exhibition action station featuring healthy entrées and salads made to order.
Another popular new feature, the display cooking station, necessitated adding an exhaust hood onto the existing building. "This was the biggest challenge so we added it toward the back where it could be the most easily accommodated," Guyott says.
A new sub concept named First Edition Grinders adds to menu items available in a deli area that also features specials made to order. Naan Za, a new gourmet pizza concept, features naan pizza crust with a variety of toppings.
The hot food and deli stations back up to the kitchen. The positioning allows staff to easily replenish the stations' food items via a pass-through hot/cold unit from the adjacent kitchen. Refrigeration sits beneath the grill, flattop and charbroiler providing staff with easy access to ingredients during production. Refrigerated prep tables at the hot station and sandwich station also contribute to staff easily moving cold food prep from the kitchen into this space during down times.
Staff working at the hot food and deli stations use high speed ovens as an alternative to fryers, versatile hot and cold wells, pass-through hot/cold units, open-air merchandising units, shaped steam pan inserts and serving casserole pans.
"Space was still limited so there was a focus on the use of lineal countertop space for merchandising," Guyott says. "We designed a uniquely shaped salad bar that customers access for salad on the front side and snacks on the back side." Customers can select from 40 rotating and occasionally themed menu items at the salad bar, which contains color-coated aluminum inserts.
The café also features a dessert station and cold and hot beverages.
Another labor-saving solution puts the cash register station on wheels so staff can move it to the end of the hot food station. "This allows the entire retail area to remain open and staffed with one person during weekends and evenings when transactions are low," Guyott says.
The renovation generated a 33 percent increase in retail revenue during the past year. "Traffic is up in part by the addition of a new cashless employee-debit system and the acceptance of credit card transactions in the café," Parker says. With the realization that staffing resources will continue to be crucial to support the new café, he adds, "This renovation project demonstrates that with sound planning and great project partners, an investment like this is bound to pay dividends both in increased revenue and customer satisfaction and loyalty."