Supermarkets, restaurants and shopping mall kiosks know the secret to luring in customers: the smell of freshly baked foods wafting through the area.
At Henry Ford Allegiance Health, it is that and even more importantly – to give people a welcoming aroma, wrapping them in a sense of comfort as they enter a hospital setting.
“We have created a welcoming atmosphere,” said Jason Hammond, director of hospitality services for the hospital, about Common Grounds.
Common Grounds was created seven years ago in the hospital lobby, a place that sells coffee, tea and other hot drinks as well as cookies, scones and muffins. Those items are actually baked on site, providing what Hammond called “a welcoming smell.”
Common Grounds is open seven days a week, weekdays from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends from 6 a.m. until 3 p.m.
“We deliberately kept the menu small because our cafeteria is on the second floor so substantial food is not far away,” said Vicky Lorencen, communication specialist.
Hammond said the crew – employees and volunteers – almost always have four flavors of cookies on hand. Chocolate chip, chocolate chunk, M&M and oatmeal raisin are among the favorites. They are all supplied by Otis Spunkmeyer and arrive as refrigerated balls of dough. This allows the staff to bake as needed, either in that size or combining a couple balls for larger cookies.
The muffins and scones are purchased from Gordon Food Service and baked as needed.
Common Grounds sells a lot of foods and drinks. Hammond said in 2016, it sold 90,000 beverages and 35,000 cookies, muffins and scones. Coffee is Starbucks and Seattle’s Best, a Starbucks company.
It didn’t take long for new staff member Danielle Wiese to find Common Grounds.
“I love having this because it is a good pick-me-up in the afternoon, and it is great on mornings when I’m running short on time,” said Wiese, a graduate nurse.
Jamie Spry, a chemotherapy technician, stops almost every morning.
“I’m a regular and they know my drink,” said Spry, waiting for the whipped cream to be applied to her latte.
On this morning Robin Bennett and Nancy Morris were handling the barrage of orders, walking back and forth in the small area making drinks, grabbing baked goods from the glass case or putting a pan of cookie dough in the oven.
“We work very well together,” said Bennett.
For Morris, “It’s a good time. We have fun talking to employees, volunteers and hospital visitors. We love what we do.”
Early morning, between 6 and 10 a.m. is the busiest, with the line often wrapping around the area. Nearby are small tables with chairs, with some people eating or drinking there, many others taking their treats to work or hospital rooms where they are visiting patients.
“This is a great way to get away from a waiting room and decompress from stress,” said Hammond. “This is a social place and as the gateway to the hospital, we want to provide a smile as someone comes in to visit a loved one.”