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Dozens of restaurant brands have identified nontraditional and on-site locations as growth areas for 2014 and beyond, and operators are expressing greater openness to health care settings when the real estate turns out to be as desirable as that offered at major urban hospitals.

Matros of Protein Bar conceded he planned to expand in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and soon Denver, primarily through opening traditional restaurants, but the experience so far at Northwestern Memorial is a welcome progression in on-site foodservice he hopes to repeat at other hospitals, college campuses, stadiums or airports when the right opportunity arises.

“This is sort of the next generation of nontraditional restaurants,” he said. “Everyone is stepping up their game because they realize they’re no different from restaurants in that they’re in the hospitality business. That’s no different in airports or stadiums.”

Another health care location “isn’t our No. 1 priority, but we’d gladly welcome it,” he added. “In D.C., we’d love to go to [the] Foggy Bottom [neighborhood] by getting into George Washington University’s hospital system.”

While Rosenthal is not necessarily looking for more hospital restaurant opportunities for his group, he also thinks the project at Northwestern Memorial is the sign of a wider move to set a new standard of foodservice in hospitals.

“I’m sure there will be dozens of followers of this model to provide increased service and amenities to staff and visitors in this setting,” he said. “That’s terrific.”

Well-dressed shoppers have been filling tables at his Cicchetti restaurant — an upscale-casual spot built around wine and Italian small plates — next to doctors dressed in scrubs and people visiting their loved ones in the hospital above, he said.

“For the first time in a hospital dining experience, a visitor to a patient can come into a restaurant to relax for a few minutes with a glass of wine and get transported away from the reasons why they’ve been brought to the institution,” Rosenthal said. “Or maybe they’ll come in to celebrate that newborn up in the labor and delivery wing.”

Contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN