SMALL FOOTPRINT LEAVES BIG TRACKS. Seasons Express is a compact version of OSU Medical Center's highly successful Seasons Cafe. The product mix features lots of healthy grab-and-go, and even semi-monthly special events like potato bars, hot wings and barbecues.
Ohio State University Medical Center faced a dilemma when about a thousand mostly administrative and clerical employees were relocated to the vacant Ackerman building complex about three miles from their previously easily-reachable onsite dining outlet, the Seasons Cafe in the main medical center campus. With limited space for full kitchen production, options for dining services at the new site were constrained.
The solution: a grab-and-go extension of the original Seasons Cafe concept called Seasons Express. It provides not just convenience and reasonable prices but a warm, relaxed and casual environment that has made it the central gathering place for employees who spend much of their days otherwise in cubicles. The concept is in place not just at Ackerman but at another emote site on the campus, the Morehouse Medical Plaza.
The Seasons Express module combines grab-and-go items prepared in the Seasons Cafe kitchen and trucked over to the Express sites, and snack and beverage options delivered directly from the supplier. There is an emphasis on healthier options such as soy milk, yogurt smoothies, baby carrot snack sticks, sushi, vegetable juices and a variety of fresh fruit at the Express sites. Indeed, because they are smaller than the original Seasons Cafe, they make excellent test sites for new products, says James Warner, associate director for retail operations.
"We've developed efficient ways to serve hot soup as well as offer twice-monthly special events, which could include baked potato bars, hot wings and outdoor barbecues," he adds.
The efficiently designed outlet maximizes work flow, allowing it to be serviced by a single staffer. In fact, Warner says, "The manager who was selected for this outlet has great customer skills and has developed a loyal following."
Success is in the numbers. Projected for $150,000 annually, it topped $250,000 in fiscal 2007. That's from a startup cost of only $20,000, since the medical center providedthe space build-out. Costs were also saved by taking advantage of vendor partnerships for costly service equipment like coffee makers and coolers.