February 12, 2007 07:00 ET

Mercy and Unity Hospitals Cook Up New Dining Experience

L2M Foodservice Design Group - a Leading Firm in Foodservice Design, Planning, and Interior Design Services - Transforms Healthcare Facilities to Compete With Commercial Foodservice Facilities

GLEN BURNIE, MD -- (MARKET WIRE) -- February 12, 2007 -- When asked to think of traditional hospital cuisine, words like plain, tasteless, and boring are instinctive thoughts. Hospital dining experiences are dreaded by most, and rarely receive any sort of positive praise from customers. Patients are generally quick to complain about their lack of options and absence of flavor.

However, Mercy and Unity Hospitals, both located in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, have defied these traditional ideas on hospital food, and have broken the mold on the hospital-dining experience. Through recently completed renovations, Mercy and Unity's retail foodservice facilities have been transformed into two modern restaurants whose food rival that of many outside commercial establishments. The Spice Cafés' culinary programs feature retail themes with popular modern recipes and menus similar to those found in fine dining restaurants.

Prior to the renovations, these 20-year-old cafeterias were cramped and outdated, lacking the tools to serve their upscale, retail menu. The old eateries were dark and demoralizing, lacking any cohesive design or modern touches. Customers were overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the lack of freshly prepared and healthy foods, and the facilities' lack of space. The hospital employees did not have a place where they could relax and get away from the anxiety of working in a high-stress environment.

In response to the consumer requests, Unity and Mercy Hospitals, in cooperation with Morrison Healthcare Food Services, invested in extensive renovation efforts. L2M Inc., a nationally recognized firm of foodservice and interior planners and designers, was brought in to transform the dull dining facilities into venues that patients and staff would not soon forget.

Led by a seasoned executive chef, the hospital's new retail foodservice facilities add a taste of excitement to the typical hospital dining experience. The Cafés offer seven different food venues, a 21-day seasonal menu that rotates daily, and more than 5,000 recipes. Customers enjoy freshly tossed salads topped with seasonal vegetables, home-made deserts, and gourmet side dishes. A display cooking area features cooked-to-order ethnic cuisine, including Italian, Asian Southwest, and Caribbean foods, and freshly grilled foods such as hamburgers and chicken sandwiches.

Customers have the option of high-quality carry-out food, as well, grabbing salads, sandwiches, snacks, and beverages on the go. A new Starbucks station offers the chain's full line of coffee products. A deli serves up a selection of deli classics in addition to panini and wraps.

In June 2006, both hospitals opened the doors to their newly renovated Spice Cafés. Completely overhauled, the new cafeterias have offered a welcomed change from their outdated counterparts. The facilities' new flooring and lighting give customers the sensation of an upscale dining experience, while new glass fixtures give off a smooth, clean appearance. Newly painted walls offer colors that are both bright and soothing. Food is displayed on countertops instead of wells that are used to keep food hot, replacing the conventional cafeteria archetype.

The response to the renovations by hospital staff, patients, and families has been overwhelming. Since the updates, Mercy and Unity Hospitals have seen their annual sales increase by 40% and 24%, respectively. The cafeterias now aggressively compete with outside food vendors, and regularly receive positive feedback from their customers.

"The Spice Café really wows people and invites them in," said Unity Hospital retail manager Colleen Webster. "You can see them get a smile on their face and a sense of relief when they walk in. It takes their minds off of the stress that is associated with a hospital experience."

The renovations to Unity and Mercy Hospitals are part of a $2.5 million investment in Allina's four Twin City metro hospital's cafeterias. L2M designed the project within the scope of the budget for Unity and Mercy, and finished the upgrades in less than eight weeks.

Headquartered in Glen Burnie, Maryland, L2M is a nationally recognized leader in architectural, foodservice planning and interior design services. Founded in 1994, L2M's team has designed and planned buildings for healthcare facilities, major retail chains, shopping centers, institutions of higher education, airports, travel plazas and faith-based organizations. For more information, please contact Bobbie Dickerson at or visit

Contact Information

  • CONTACT: Bobbie Dickerson, Associate
    Company Name: SPIN
    Phone Number: 410.889.4112
    FAX Number: 410.889.4492
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