By Clara M.W. VangenAmidst the hope and heartbreak of the patients and visitors to the NorthEast Medical Center in Concord, NC, is the newly renovated Café 920. Sanctioned as an area of the hospital where patients, visitors, and staff gather for everything from private conversation to impromptu meetings, the hospital recognized the importance of providing its patients and patrons with a functional and attractive food service area.Set in a Mediterranean theme, the new dining experience features a green slate floor and brick archways that invite the community back in as a nice place to dine. “We changed the entire look and feel of the cafeteria,” says Donna Craft, executive director of Support Services for the Hospital, who spearheaded the project. Her vision was to provide a comfortable and attractive environment for the public, as well as hospital staff. “We wanted to give our employees a better look and feel for their breaks. They work very hard and deserve that consideration,” she says. Unequivocally, the most challenging aspect of the project was the continuation of food service to patrons and patients throughout the renovation process. Using an existing emergency room area and a kitchen-equipped trailer, the food service staff was able not only to continue providing round-the-clock food service, but also to successfully complete a surprise OSHA inspection and a Tri-annual Joint Commission Survey while operating from the swing space.In addition to the exceptional aesthetics of the café, the staff now operates in a state-of-the-art kitchen that includes prep areas, dry and refrigerated storage areas, a dishwashing area, and serving stations. “Each of NorthEast Medical Center’s four buildings is anchored together at the dining hall,” explains Bruce Moore, principal and project manager, FreemanWhite Inc. “A year in the making … from the design phase to completion, this is a project that the community has embraced, as well as the patients and staff of the hospital.”Hospital staff and visitors to Café 920 are offered a variety of dining choices. “We went to market-style serving, offering our diners a choice of home-style cooking; a rotisserie chicken, beef, or pork loin carving station; grilled selections; a deli bar; a pizza bar; a bakery; and wok display cooking,” says Craft, whose vision for Café 920 also included a water wall. Unlike others she had seen, Craft put Susan H. Ford, director of Interior Design, FreemanWhite Inc., to task in searching for a company that could duplicate the Corian® surface used in the trays and countertops throughout the space as the backdrop for the wall. “The water wall is a beautiful addition to the space,” says Ford. “We put a great deal of time and effort into deciding where it would be best located. In the end, we positioned it at the register. There, it acts as something of a sound masking system, as well as being an attractive focal point.”For patients of the 457-bed hospital, first built in 1937, the 15,452-square-foot renovation meant significant improvements to the efficiency of the in-room patient food preparation area. These improvements allowed the hospital to expand the in-room food selections, decrease the patient menu request errors, and improve the quality of the food being served to the patients. “We did away with patient menus. We implemented a selection service [by which] we go to each patient’s room, tell them what the selections are for that meal, and then serve it directly to them.” Custom catering, hot from the oven, is delivered directly to the patient per his or her individual request.Additionally, the hospital had hoped to regain its market share of dining business previously lost to other area eateries. “Our desire was to give Café 920 the look and feel of an area restaurant,” says Ford.Moore concurs with this assessment, adding, “A hospital is a place where people congregate, sometimes under the most stressful of circumstances. The cafeteria is understandably a place within the hospital where people go to revive themselves, talk through their feelings, and share their experiences with others. It’s the hub of the hospital.”Feedback from patients, staff, and visitors has been completely positive. A year after its opening, Café 920 exceeded its anticipated share of market with a nearly 30-percent increase in revenue.Clara M.W. Vangen ([email protected]) is technologies editor at Buildings and BI magazines.