Mayo clinic success: Harvest cafe wows hospital

Alycia Carroll, a cook at the Harvest Cafe at Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont, recently prepared made-to-order sandwiches for lunch patrons at the hospital cafeteria.

FAIRMONT — The Harvest Cafe at Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont has been reaping a bumper crop of praise. Often referred to as the hospital cafeteria, the cafe has changed its look and its menu, much to the enjoyment of Mayo staff and patients as well as vigilant area residents who have discovered an economical place to dine.

“It’s one of our hidden gems,” said Amy Long, Fairmont Mayo administrator.

Two years ago, Mayo contracted with national food service specialist Morrison Healthcare to operate Mayo’s eateries.

“It was a complete Mayo Clinic-Morrison transition, but not every hospital site has food services,” Long said. Some Mayo sites, like St. James and Springfield, do not have food services so they use the kitchenettes at their locations to finish preparing meals ordered from the Fairmont site a couple of times per week. “It was a very smooth transition, and we’ve only seen positive come out of it.”

Amber Brummond, assistant director and manager of Fairmont’s food service, agreed that the transition was a positive move. She pointed out that most of the employees were retained by Morrison so concerns of local people losing jobs when Morrison took over were unfounded.

“Seventy-five percent of our staff has been here 10 years or longer,” Brummond said. “They take pride in what they do.”

Morrison refreshed the cafeteria with new paint and redesigned the service line for increased productivity. The Harvest Cafe operates with a minimal number of employees who strive for efficiency. Lunches are handled with a cook, a cashier and an employee working the food line.

One of the first changes was the addition of a salad bar, which generated a strong favorable response, and a specialty that is spotlighted each weekday. The Wednesday morning omelet bar is patron favorite, drawing about 50 people each week. Breakfast burritos are served on Monday, tacos on Tuesday and new brands on Thursday. Friday’s special rotates between made-to-order pasta, fajitas or stir fry. Other sandwiches, entrees and side dishes also are available.

In addition to the special main dish of the day and the salad bar, an Italian station offering pizza, calzones or flatbread is included daily in the service line. Diners can top off their meal with bars prepared by cook Alycia Carroll whose Scotcheroos have been called “the best ever” by many of the Mayo staff.

Long said one of the best ideas that has been implemented are the “power plates,” potential new foods that are tested by the nursing staff because they are in the forefront of any patient complaint about the food.

“It is just a neat, creative idea as a tactic to improve patient expectations about hospital food,” Long said. “Gone are the days of green Jell-O.”

Mayo staff patronizing the cafe have the option of paying in cash or scanning their ID badges to have their purchases deducted from their payroll checks.

“The Fairmont site was doing well before, but I think that the refresh has helped them do even better,” said John Klostermeyer, food service director for Mayo’s southwest Minnesota region. “It is really Amber and her team that have driven the cafe’s success. We can have all the fancy equipment in the world, but if they’re not taking care of the customers, all that other stuff is not going to matter.”

With the closing of the Lutz Wing of the hospital last year, it was anticipated that the numbers at the cafeteria would drop because there would be less people on the Mayo campus.

“But Amber and the team have actually increased the numbers there,” he said. On Feb. 27, a record 287 customers went through the cafe.

Each week, Brummond and the Harvest Cafe team hold a retail meeting to review how to continue to improve customer satisfaction.

“I’m very proud of my staff. They work so hard. They are here for the right reasons,” Brummond said. “It’s not just about the patients. It’s also about the family members that are here. This experience means a lot to them, just being able to come here and enjoy some good food.”

The Harvest Cafe is open to the public, as well as Mayo staff. Hours are 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. weekends and holidays. Breakfast is served from 7-10 a.m. with lunch served from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Special items are available for vegan and vegetarian diners as well as those have food allergies, such as gluten.

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