A tasteful first impression

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A tasteful first impression
A tasteful first impression
First-time visitors to Sherwood Oaks in Cranberry, PA, often know where they want to go upon stepping into the facility:  the new Café Sherwood  on one side of the lobby. The 20-seat café brings less-structured, bistro-like dining nearly to the facility's entryway.

Working together with Sherwood Oaks officials, Cura Hospitality came up with a redesign for a more intimate dining experience for residents and visitors.

“We wanted to update our lobby and create an alternative dining area, more like a bistro, a Panera's or a Starbucks where you can look back and see them working, and it's on display,” said Sherwood Oaks President Mark Bondi.

Keeping ahead of changing trends in dining style was a big concern, as well. 

The goal became to design a place that “residents who come in years from now will be OK with,” said Cura Hospitality Regional Vice President Anita Dwyer.

The previous café at Sherwood Oaks had an identical menu to the dining room and offered no extra items. The dining room itself was large and uninviting for the residents, in addition to the challenge of being handicapped inaccessible.  

Now, residents can enjoy a wider variety of foods – including freshly baked bread – from the bistro. The new café also is handicapped accessible, making it easy and convenient for who those who want to stop by for a meal. 

One popular new feature is the grab-and-go section, which Dwyer says has helped increase revenue: “A lot of the employees like to use it. They don't have to wait for anything.” 

Overcoming challenges

To help with the conceptualization of the new café, Bondi visited local eateries and other Cura clients, taking notes for the project. He learned a lot about creating an enjoyable atmosphere, he said.
He added that one of the main lessons he learned from observing others' operations was to put condensers and other noise-making machines on the roof, away from the customers. 

“We went into some very lovely dining areas and no one was in them because of the constant droning. I think it was especially bad for people with hearing aids. It's more of a distraction for them,” Bondi explained.

The biggest challenge to the design crew and contractors, though, was moving the bathrooms and increasing the size of the kitchen. Serious structural work was required to get these particular tasks done. But, according to Bondi, “It doesn't have to be that way if you have the space.”

While Sherwood Oaks undertook this major café, some temporary and somewhat improvised dining arrangements were set up in the interim. A buffet style dinner was available in the auditorium for residents. To help ensure that the transition went as smoothly as possible, a survey was taken in the middle of the renovation to gauge resident satisfaction. There were very few complaints, Bondi says.

Although there are no immediate plans to revamp any other section of Sherwood Oaks, Bondi said he is definitely “ready for another adventure.” 

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Lessons 
learned

1-Put condensers and other noise-making machines on the roof, away from customers.

2-During a major renovation, make sure your residents are comfortable with the temporary arrangement you have set up.

3-Try to keep your eating areas up to date and marketable so they will appeal not only to residents but also to their family members and employees