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PHILADELPHIA-Aramark will roll out a fast-casual restaurant brand, Soluna Cafe & Bakery, devoted specifically to doctors, nurses, employees and visitors at large healthcare campuses. The first restaurant will open in Houston this year, with others in San Diego and Columbus, OH to follow in early 2007.

The healthcare division of locally based Aramark serves nearly 1,300 hospitals and senior-living facilities worldwide. Future expansion of Soluna is planned, but an Aramark spokesman declined to project how many units might open or identify additional potential locations.

The inaugural unit will open in October in the Texas Medical Center, home to University of Texas’ MD Anderson Cancer Center, Methodist Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children’s Hospital and Saint Luke’s Hospital. It will occupy 4,000 sf on the ground floor of the Bank of America building at the southeast corner of Holcombe Boulevard and South Main Street. It is designed for a 60-seat dining room and 40-seat outdoor patio.

A similar-size restaurant will open at OhioHealth’s Grant Medical Center, which is located at 111 S. Grant Avenue in Columbus. A third unit will go into 5,000 sf of the newly constructed Physicians Medical Office Building at 7910 Frost St. in San Diego across from Sharp Memorial Hospital. Sharp Mary Birch Hospital and Children’s Hospital and Health Center of San Diego share the campus.

Calling this “an important strategic initiative,” Bob Carpenter, president of Aramark Healthcare, says in a press release that “physicians, nurses and hospital staff often have difficulty finding the time to refuel and relax during the demands of a typical work day. Our research has indicated that a gap for this type of dining option exists in the healthcare setting and developing this concept in close proximity to leading healthcare institutions allows us to meet their needs.”

Soluna will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and feature soups, made-to-order salads and sandwiches, and premium coffee, teas and fruit drinks. Each unit will also have a catering component for deliveries to nearby hospitals, universities and businesses.

Aramark is a Fortune 500 company that provides food service, facilities management and career apparel to universities, school districts, stadiums, arenas and businesses in addition to healthcare facilities. It employs approximately 240,000 people in 20 countries.

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