By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor
Add Erie County Medical Center to the list of hospitals looking to bolster the look of its main cafeterias – and, more importantly, expand healthy dining options.
The Grider Street medical center last week officially opened its second-floor dining facility under a new name, the Great Lakes Café, following a $2 million renovation. Morrison food service, which handles similar duties at Terrace View Long-Term Care Facility and School 84, worked with ECMC to revamp the hospital dining experience, add seating and create a new made-to-order philosophy.
Morrison, a food service, senior living and healthcare company, will look to improve the patient menu, which often is limited because of dietary restrictions, but the company hopes that as patients heal and can move around the hospital, they will have their first sit-down meals with visitors at the Great Lakes Café.
The company – whose new dining experience will compete with Subway, Tim Horton’s and Mighty Taco on the ECMC first floor – sees great potential for the new cafe, Hotz said.
“The region will benefit from coming here as a consumer, not just patients, faculty, staff and families,” he said. “We’d like people in the area to come to us. Use it as a date night, use it as a lunch date. It’s such an inviting, warm facility ... and the options are fantastic.”
Hotz said the menu focuses on “fresh, creative, healthy meals” that provide comfort, nutrition and culturally diverse options.
Here’s how the café – which is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day – breaks down:
- Crisp – This is the name of the salad bar.
- So – A made-to-order deli sandwich station.
- Create – A “very chef-inspired” station where a chef helps you devise your own meal, in rotating styles that include Cajun/Creole, Asian and Italian. Veggies and proteins are key here.
- 2 mato – Italian cuisine.
- Bake shop – By Rich Products.
“All of this is anchored by our flagship, which is Austin Grill,” Hotz said.
Austin Grill Express is the focal point of what’s set up as a sort of food court, and features a made-to-order burrito line similar to Moe’s and Chipotle Grill, along with options that include tacos, nachos, burgers, grilled chicken and baked chicken wings.
Mindful that the café has fast-food competitors in the hospital, the operation is designed to get food to customers in three minutes or less, Hotz said. The price range for meals is $3 to $8.
The Great Lakes Café is the latest effort for a WNY hospital that looks to embrace healthy eating principles in places which, after all, are designed to restore and maintain good health. Last year, I also introduced you to Kathy Kubiak-McAlpine, the food service manager at Kenmore-Mercy Hospital, who has used several creative approaches in recent years.
Those who stop into the Great Lakes Café may be comforted in knowing that Hotz is a healthy eater. His good habits start at home, with help from his wife, Johnna, a physician’s assistant and registered dietitian he met a quarter century ago while the two were at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa., and is further inspired by their son, Joshua, 22, a body builder who is diligent about food choices.
“He’s a machine of discipline and nutrition,” Hotz said. “He knows from the prospective of science how food affects his body. He’s done pretty darn well in local competitions: all-natural competitions and the Mr. Buffalo competition.
“We couldn’t get him to eat something he’s not supposed to if we tried.