Hospital staff, visitors, and patients at Jefferson Hospital in Cherry Hill, N.J. can get a taste of the Philadelphia dining scene just by walking into the cafeteria.
Jefferson Hospital, a 900-patient facility in the Philadelphia suburbs, was one of 12 healthcare facilities that served as a pilot location for Jack*s Burritos, a collaboration between foodservice company Aramark and the famed local restauranteur Steven Starr.
Jack*s Burritos is an adaptation of JackAss Burrito, a virtual dining concept in Philadelphia offering globally inspired burritos and burrito bowls. Think Korean beef burritos with kimchi, crunchy Frito pie burritos with jalapeno queso, as well as a vegan burrito with kale, mushrooms, crispy quinoa, and corn and poblano salsa. "People around here know who Starr is and they know his restaurants," says Aramark General Manager Marc Suppin, who brought the concept to life at Jefferson. "To bring that to healthcare, it's something you don't typically see."
Seeking a Mexican-inspired concept based on current retail dining trends like Chipotle, Aramark "looked to see how we could take [Starr's] model and adapt it to Aramark's service model," says Aramark Director of Marketing Programs Tracy Styf. "How could we adapt that on-trend flavor mashup that we know is popular with consumers and create a stellar concept? That's how it all started."
Aramark was drawn to JackAss Burrito because "the flavors are incredible," Styf says. "We've got those mashup ingredients, but they're in a carrier that everyone knows: A burrito."
The only challenge? Adapting Starr's recipes to work with Aramark's systems and simplify operations so foodservice employees could make orders quickly and efficiently. "That included things like our supply chain, the equipment you'll typically find in our locations, portion sizes, and suggested retail pricing," says Styf. "Our Culinary Innovations Center and Starr's team really worked together to take it and make it scalable."
Aramark created a streamlined, two-page operations guide to assist operators with concept implementation. "The guide linked to helpful resources that they might need, so they didn't have to dig through a single multipage document," says Styf. They developed training videos to teach foodservice staffers the skills they needed to master Starr's cooking techniques, so operators could be sure to meet Starr's expectation of the recipe execution.
The result was a five-item menu featuring baja shrimp, grilled chicken, Korean beef, vegan, and Frito pie burritos that could also be ordered as bowls on a base of rice, lettuce, and kale. (The bowls are gluten-free.) A selection of chips and dips (like salsa roja, jalapeno queso, corn and poblano salsa, salsa verde, and pico de gallo), and agua frescas.
Low-profile instruction cards were put on the station build table to give foodservice staffers step-by-step visuals on how to make each burrito. "Some of the flavor profiles are pretty intricate or a little bit newer - who puts kimchi on a burrito? We wanted to make sure we got it right," says Styf.
With the food offerings in place, Aramark set to work transforming their existing home station at Jefferson into Jack*s Burritos. The initial investment, which included full branding and uniforms and digital signage, cost $300. Getting the program up and running took four weeks.
The new concept launched in November 2022, getting rotated in and out regularly with the standard cafeteria home station over a two-month period. Implementation was largely smooth, but Aramark found that pandemic-related labor shortages sometimes made it difficult for staffers to implement the five-burrito menu. They responded by developing two streamlined menus with fewer ingredients that could be executed with limited staffing. The On A Mission strategy featured just the On A Mission Burrito, the brand's most popular offering, stuffed with grilled chicken, cilantro lime rice, black beans, salsa roja, pico de gallo, cheese, crema, and guacamole. There's also a three-burrito menu option.
The pilot was a huge success, driving up station sales by 78%. Station participation increases by 24%, while the average station check went up by 53%. Jack*s Burritos also helped raise overall retail sales by 40% and increase the average overall guest check by 33%. One hundred percent of guests rated their satisfaction between 7 and 10.
After the positive test run, Aramark knew it was time to make Jack*s Burritos a more permanent part of its roster. The concept was rolled out in over 60 accounts in March 2023. The full five-burrito menu is the same at each location, however, operators have the option of running one of the streamlined versions based on their staffing situation. "Our locations are unique," Styf says. "We wanted to keep flexibility within the framework."