HAPPY DAYS FOR HOSPITAL STAFF. Temple-Episcopal Hospital's new Café Eats Diner sits in a renovated breakroom area and offers a full diner menu.
When he was doing consulting for the Episcopal Campus of Temple University Hospitals in Philadelphia, Mike Gallinaro would walk by the main floor room, see the employees congregated there eating, and assume it was the cafeteria. Later he discovered that the actual cafeteria was in the basement, and the area he was passing was only a break room with tables and some vending machines.
When he became director of food & nutrition at Episcopal last year, Gallinaro remembered the cafè-that-should-have-been and decided to do something about it. The result of his efforts: a new retail cafè that has given Episcopal employees an alternative dining venue and the Food & Nutrition Dept. a new source of incremental revenue at little startup cost.
"We had accumulated some funds that were intended to install air-conditioning in the kitchen," Gallinaro explains. "But when we started to explore the project, we discovered that the money was not nearly enough for a full-blown system, so we decided to put in three portable units instead. Then, with the remainder, about $90,000, we decided to renovate the break room and turn it into a full-service cafè."
The money was enough to purchase major equipment like a griddle, reach-in cooler and double-coil stovetop as well as the counters, furniture and dècor. It also paid for knocking out a few walls to extend the space into an adjoining room that was previously a small storage area (all the work was done in-house).
Cafè Eats, as it has been christened, is a 50s-style diner complete with 24-ft. counter, plus five tables. Open from 9:30 am to 8 pm weekdays and 10 to 6 on weekends (the full cafeteria downstairs closes at 2), it serves basic diner food, including burgers, fries, breakfast-all-day selections and a special of the day.
The venue opened in January and currently draws about 230 customers a day with a $3.60 check average. Gallinaro says he hopes to increase that in the near future as Cafè Eats has yet to begin marketing itself. His next project: knocking out another wall to open an outdoor patio extension for additional seating.