Natchitoches Salad Toss Up Increases Sales

We have heard it time and time again – cafes and food service establishments are hit hard by the pandemic.  But instead of conceding to the pandemic, Cura’s teams are reinventing, offering safe services to bring their customers back.

According to Chef Director Scott Simpson at Natchitoches Regional Medical Center in Natchitoches, Louisiana, 20% of our business came from members of the community and local offices.  In fact, prior to the pandemic, hospital administrators encouraged the community to dine and enjoy the Cane River Cafe’s offerings, even conducting meetings here.  “We didn’t’ realize how much business we did with the community until we experienced the impacts of COVID.”

Removing self-serve stations, including our beloved salad bars, had Simpson’s customers missing their greens!  To make up for the loss in revenues, Simpson created the Salad Toss Up, which accounts for 14.58% of total sales since the launch earlier this year.

The Salad Toss Up employs an attendant who stands behind the salad bar and a protective plexiglass shield, preparing salads made-to-order! Customers select their base from spinach, romaine, or iceberg; three toppings; some crunch; proteins and dressing.  “We tried grab and go, but you can’t replace customizing your salad.  Plus, our team members engage our customers.  It’s a win for us, as well as our customers,” says Simpson.

A Wild Card Wednesday promotion also adds excitement as the menu is not advertised!  “The idea is to create a little intrigue, encouraging medical staff to take a break and visit the cafe to discover the menu of the day!   “Staff will call and try to get our staff to share the menu – but we won’t reveal!   Annie Simpson, our retail manager is having a lot of fun with that, ” says Simpson.

Simpson also offers Seasonal Plate with a twist.  Seasonal Plate is a monthly seasonal food promotion created by Elior North America, Cura’s parent company. Seasonal Plate focuses on offering fresh ingredients with unique seasonings.  Menu selections may include a chicken Brussels grain bowl, an adobo chicken sandwich, or a pork torta with cabbage slaw, to name a few. “We implement what will work here.  So, for example, instead of sweet potatoes, James Coutee, our lead cook, offered sweet potato waffles with breakfast hash.

Employees are also inspired to come up with their own recipes.  “For example, we held a chili month where we invited staff to prepare their own chili and decide how to serve.  A Texas-style chicken chili helped to drive sales by 15-20%,” he says.

Amanda Roberts, clinical nutrition manager, will also provide educational materials on eating in moderation, and helping customers to make healthier decisions. Tony Bernstine, “Cookie” Brown and Felicia Soileau are also major contributors to the cafe’s culinary successes.

“It’s the slight changes and keeping everything different and new each week is what’s making the difference,” Simpson says.