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Facility Design Project of the Month, Jan. 2010: The Humana Café at Eden Park, Cincinnati, Ohio

Servery and kitchen design, including placement of equipment, allow quick service and labor efficiencies in this café, which features freshly prepared food.

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In response to anticipated growth, Louisville, Ky.-based Humana Inc. decided to dramatically expand its Cincinnati Service Center. One of the nation's largest publicly traded health benefits companies, Humana insures approximately 10.3 million medical members. Humana's Cincinnati office is one of the company's three national service centers and employs 1,000 people, more than twice the number working in the area in 2005. The building is expandable to accommodate 1,900 associates with a mobile work strategy.
"The Humana Café at Eden Park is designed to support Humana's culture of wellness by serving healthful, beautifully presented food choices," says Patty Guist, manager, associate programs and services, for Humana. "Associates are attracted to come into the café in part because its entrance is off the main lobby on the first floor."

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A main-floor café is a remarkable change for Humana's Cincinnati associates. The previous regional headquarters in Cincinnati housed foodservice in the basement with a single foodservice line that accommodated selecting, ordering, preparing and payment. "The process and space were not conducive to the Humana culture or work process," says the project's architect, Brady Mick of BHDP Architecture.

A chef presents deli fare over ice in a cold-serving
A chef presents deli fare over ice in a cold-serving unit. Sandwiches can be toasted in a panini oven at this station.


The new café's design emphasizes quick service, enticing food presentation and a variety of food choices. The café includes a 700-square-foot, 21-seat lobby café; 3,180-square-foot main dining room with 107 table seats, 36 banquette seats and 18 perimeter bar seats; 384-square-foot, 14-seat conference dining room; 2,750-square-foot servery; and 2,834-square-foot kitchen with dish return, washing area and storage.

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Café seating/ Photographs courtesy of Ryan Kurtz Photography The café’s comfortable dining room features a warm color palette and special materials such as glass [why is glass special?], decorative acrylic panels and other artwork. Seating options include cozy banquettes, round and square tables and counter-height. Strategically located at the windows, the café not only highlights Humana’s collaborative culture but also allows natural light. Indirect pendant lighting and lowered lighted over the banquettes suggests a living-room feel. Amber-colored beads [where are the beads? On the lighting?]add sparkle and warmth.


"Humana's success is centered on its associates' work experience," Mick says. "Associates are encouraged to be together in the dining space, which supports cross-team interaction and a culture of community. Associates can move into the informal café seating in the lobby for impromptu meetings throughout the day. It is common to see the senior leaders and associates engaging in meetings in both the low table settings and the high seats. Furniture can be easily rearranged. Counters that offer seating also provide plug-ins for associates to dock their laptops. The café's coffee and snack stations are open throughout the day."
From the Humana Center's main lobby, the gentle curves of the walls and ceiling draw dining customers into the space and add softness to the environment, Mick explains. The lobby's windows bring in natural light to the café and the use of wood in the servery and seating areas, plants, decorative pendants, acrylic panels, artwork and textured glass, as well as its color palette of gold, sage green and burnt reds warms the space.
"Cast glass at the tops of the low walls not only helps maintain the open feel, but gives the space visual texture," Mick says. The main circulation paths and servery contain tile that looks like slate. Carpeting in the seating areas provides a comfortable feeling and helps minimize noise.
The servery design promotes a made-to-order fresh food theme. "The menu is chef-driven," says Eric Johnson corporate general manager and executive chef for Guckenheimer's, the contract feeder managing Humana's Louisville and Cincinnati foodservice operations. "We have a few regular items, but menus change daily. Ingredients are fresh and healthful."

A char grill, griddle, fryer and conveyor oven behind the grill
A char grill, griddle, fryer and conveyor oven behind the grill allow chefs to prepare menu items to order.


The design also emphasizes speed of service. "The position of serving stations and the ample space in the servery allow Humana associates to move easily from station to station," Mick says. "The grab-and-go station is near the entrance and cash registers so associates can avoid crowded stations."
Labor efficiency is a priority in this design. Staff can move easily among stations and work multiple stations during slower traffic periods. Chefs can prepare food to order or set up self-service stations depending on the day's menus and traffic.
Most of the café's cooking equipment is located in the servery's stations, where customers can watch the chefs in action. At the deli, staff use a refrigerated sandwich table to prepare custom-made sandwiches. A refrigerated air-screen display case holds premade items.
Around the corner from the deli is a coffee station next to a mini convenience store selling balloons, cards, health and beauty aids, first aid supplies and bagged candy. Reach-in coolers offer bottled beverages and whole fruit to go.
To the left of the deli station is the pizza station. Staff prepare whole-pan and flatbread pies on a refrigerated make-up table and bake them in a double conveyor oven.

Deep sinks and wide counters
Deep sinks and wide counters promote efficiency in the cold-prep area.

Staff use the conveyor oven to bake calzones and individual pasta casseroles. Once a week, chefs also use the conveyor ovens to heat hot Italian toasted subs.

Adjacent to the pizza station, the grill area's flat-top and charbroiler sizzle burgers formed with grass-fed beef, free-range, hormone-free chicken breasts, pork, turkey and veggie burgers. Fryers with supporting refrigeration and assembly space cook French fries and hand-battered Buffalo wings. A steamer cooks fresh vegetables daily and keeps nutrients at peak levels.
Staff prepare popular breakfast items, such as egg sandwiches, omelets and bacon, at this station, too. Nearly 150 customers daily frequent this station for breakfast, often at about 9:15 a.m.
An extension of the grill contains flat warmers that hold and display homemade chips and occasionally beef briskets and turkey breasts that are carved to order.
An area that serves a rotating menu of specials also sits near the grill. Heated holding and display equipment with support refrigeration to allow staff to showcase entrées such as baked potatoes with house-made toppings, Southwestern-style beef and chicken, stir-fry, lasagna and roasted top round with garlic potatoes and green beans.
The dessert station showcases individual desserts that include cookies, bite-size cheesecake and mini iced cakes.
The adjacent station contains beverage dispensers for sodas, iced tea and lemonade. Coffee and cashiers are closest to the exit.
Across an aisle from the entrées is the "health bar," a refrigerated unit offering three lettuce mixes, couscous and quinoa, hummus, roasted vegetables, edamame, seaweed salad, corn bread, Parmesan crisps, croutons, bacon bits, wasabi peas and toasted almonds. Staff prepare salad dressings in the back of the house. At breakfast, the bar offers fruit, yogurt, cottage cheese, pastry and other items.

Refrigerated display units and shelving
Refrigerated display units and shelving hold a variety of convenience and to-go menu items and sundries.

Another island features soups and grab-and-go desserts at lunch; breakfast items served here include bagels, bread, peanut butter, jellies, cold cereal and oatmeal.
Staff prepare food for the servery stations in the back of the house. Food deliveries received at building's back dock are held in two walk-in coolers, a walk-in freezer and dry storage. In front of the coolers and freezer, staff prepare salads and ingredients for pasta dishes and pizzas using a food processor, fry cutter and slicer.
In the kitchen's hot-prep area, kettles are used to prepare soups and stews such as broccoli and cheese, bison chili with cinnamon and spaghetti noodles, and spicy corn chowder with cilantro, cumin, cayenne and white pepper. A nearby range heats sauces and small-batch soups.
Staff use the smoker to prepare ham, turkey and roast beef for the deli, as well as entrée specials such as smoked salmon, pork loin and beef brisket. A combi-oven roasts proteins such as turkey, top round, skirt steak, prime rib and whole fish such as mahi mahi. The convection oven roasts bacon, white and sweet potatoes and other starches, Parmesan cheese crisps, herb focaccia and brochettes.

Also on the hot cook line, a tilt skillet is used for stocks and also braises vegetables for stir-fry dishes, which are finished in the sauté pans in the servery's exhibition station.
Facilitating productivity and the café's eco-friendly focus is a high-efficiency dishmachine and pulper for efficient garbage handling. The café's use of compostable disposables contributes to sustainable practices, as well. As takeout comprises nearly 75 percent of sales, these practices are essential to minimizing the café's carbon footprint.
A welcome feature of the new Cincinnati Service Center, the café's efficient design and equipment selection and placement are well suited to a growing associate population. Most important, the café supports the company's wellness and associates' collaboration goals that will remain in place far into the future.


The servery’s combination of curved and straight lines, pendant lighting, earth-tones and slate-look floors lend a contemporary, comfortable ambiance.
A char grill, griddle, fryer and conveyor oven behind the grill allow chefs to prepare menu items to order.
A chef presents deli fare over ice in a cold-serving unit. Sandwiches can be toasted in a panini oven at this station.
Deep sinks and wide counters promote efficiency in the cold-prep area.
The servery’s combination of curved and straight lines, pendant lighting, earth-tones and slate-look floors lend a contemporary, comfortable ambiance.Photograph by Patty Guist

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Design Capsule
The Humana Café at Eden Park in Cincinnati opened December 2008. It is housed in Humana's Cincinnati Service Center, a regional headquarters and service center. The cafe includes a 700-square-foot, 21-seat lobby cafe, 3,180-square-foot main dining room with 107 table seats, 36 banquette seats and 18 perimeter bar seats; 384-square-foot, 14-seat conference dining room; 2,750-square-foot servery and 2,834-square-foot kitchen with dish return, washing area and storage. The average breakfast check is $3.47; average for lunch is $4.97. The café, which registers 140,000 average transactions and $700,000 in annual sales, is open from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. Staff includes 2 management associates and 7 hourly associates. Built to serve 1,000 per day, the café currently serves 500.

Owner: Humana, headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky
Architect: BHDP Architecture, Cincinnati; Brady Mick, architect/workplace strategist
Interior Design: BHDP Architecture, Cincinnati; Ann Weigand
Manager of Associate Programs and Services: Patty Guist
Corporate Area Manager: Eric Johnson, executive chef, Guckenheimer
Executive Chef, Cincinnati: Joe Lindlau, Guckenheimer
Associate Experience Leader, Workplace Solutions: Kevin Dooley
Consultant: Nisonger Associates, Inc., Milford, Ohio; Harry Nisonger, principal
Equipment Dealer: C&T Design, Cincinnati; Steve Prather, rep
Construction: Corporex

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