The challenge for many corporate dining operators is to keep customers onsite.

At the multi-tenant, growing Metropoint Corporate Campus in St. Louis Park, MN, dining services provider A’viands has so far met this challenge by converting a former coffee shop space into The Point Original Sandwich Company, a retail concept offering an onsite alternative to the cafeteria for lunchtime customers.

Opened in mid 2013, The Point offers customers a selection of grab-and-go or freshly prepared sandwiches and salads along with packaged sides, snacks and beverages while providing an additional dining and social space besides the existing onsite cafeteria. The result: from the 50-60 transactions and $175 the previous concept was generating daily, The Point is averaging up to 250 transactions and revenues of more than $1,200.

A’viands Director of Operations Greg Rich describes The Point concept as “a way to maintain our competitive edge, not only in a specific building or property, but keep tenants engaged in the food service operations and not have them leave the property for alternate restaurants.”

“One of our objectives,” he notes, “was to invest a space that could provide alternative menu options from the regular café operations and create a destination to drive foot traffic.”

Also prompting a change was the building’s growing population, which “warranted an additional point of service to provide alternate menus and develop a venue that had efficient transaction times,” Rich says. “We believed that development of an additional point of service would also provide relief to our other outlets in terms of wait times and efficiency.”

The existing coffee shop in the space, despite the somewhat underwhelming numbers, nevertheless offered a high-profile brand that had developed a loyal following, one which A’viands retained while supplementing it with a new upscale gourmet deli concept in the new The Point concept.

That concept revolves around a simple menu of high-quality, freshly prepared foods designed to compete with corner delis, sandwich chains and even A’viands’ own onsite café to provide internal variety. Offerings include hot soups, made-to-order gourmet salads and fresh bread deli sandwiches.

The everyday menu features 14 standard sandwiches like Honey Mustard Chicken, Smoked Ham Club and Bourbon Street Special (blackened chicken breats, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and ranch dressing on an onion roll), along with five salads plus a create-your-own option. There are also daily specials such as Fresh Pear Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing and options like having one’s sandwich in a lettuce roll instead of bread for a low-carb version.

Digital screens provide state-of-the-art signage and marketing in the morning, when the space serves as a coffee shop before converting automatically to the lunch menu. Since The Point is in a public area of the building, after operating hours the digital signage is programmed to promote the main café and coffee shop, publicize upcoming lunch features, provide nutrition education and encourage social media engagement.

The space makeover required only a $75,000 investment for new cabinetry, millwork, countertops, production/holding equipment, the digital signage, coolers, serviceware and utilities like electrical and plumbing. ROI was pegged at three years.

Following its successful introduction at Metropoint, A’viands has expanded The Point concept to some of its Higher Education accounts and is looking to put it into future projects as well.