The people behind the Wynwood Yard—the restaurant and culture incubator in Miami’s arts district—are making a bet: selling good, healthy food near a hospital will be good for business.
This week, Wynwood Yard founder Della Heiman and business partner Ken Lyon open Jackson Hall at the Civica Center in Miami’s health district.
The space used to be a food court, but Heiman and Lyon took out the eight deep fryers. The new menus range from poke bowls to local vegetables to free-range rotisserie chickens. Jackson Hall partnered with a hydroponic farm company, 80 Acres Farms, to grow their own produce on-site. And with options in the $10 to $14 range, Jackson Hall is positioned to be competitive with the nearby fast-casual restaurant chains.
Heiman and Lyon sat down with Health News Florida to talk about why they’re expanding into the hospital district:
What is your philosophy about the relationship between food and health?
DELLA HEIMAN: We believe that food plays a tremendous role in maintaining optimal health and also in healing.
Our team has been working with Sylvester Cancer Center, which is actually right down the street from where we're located. They told us that there was really nowhere within the entire Jackson Health District where they could recommend that some of their very critical patients eat, based on their dietary recommendations. When we first had that meeting we were sort of shocked that that's the reality here.
So we want patients to be able to come in and say, OK, I'm on an anti-inflammatory diet, or I'm on a low sodium diet, or I'm on a vegan diet, or a gluten-free diet. And it'll be super easy for them to navigate the menus here.
KEN LYON: And the other thing is, besides patients, the workforce here is under a lot of stress. They work crazy hours. And they have very few choices other than fast food.
What actually are going to be some of the menu options? What kind of food is going to be available here?
DH: There are five fast-casual food concepts. There is a stripped down version of Charcoal Garden Bar and Grill, called Charcoal Rotisserie. There's a Poke concept called Little Island Poke shop. There's the Mediterranean concept called Levante. There is modern, hip deli called Leo and Bloom Delicatessen. And then there is the first brick and mortar location of Della Bowls, as well as a beverage offering called Radiate Apothecary and Bar.
KL: And our goal is to serve healthier types of food. Stay away from bad oils, stay away from refined sugar.
DH: The vision is to put a hydroponic farm on the floor above where we are here. The company is called 80 Acres Farms, and what they grow in their farms is green leafy vegetables, micro greens, culinary herbs and woody herbs. They also do vine crops like tomatoes and cucumbers. So you're getting something that's traveling 24 feet instead of 2,400 miles.
And we’ll also hopefully be able to provide these products that retail in the market here so that people that work in the hospital can actually go grocery shopping on their way home.
When you did your market research, what led you to believe that this was a place where this concept could be profitable?
KL: Total payroll for the [health] district is $1.9 billion. We’re talking about one of the most concentrated, highly paid work areas—and underserved work areas—in the state of Florida.
DH: This really is a food desert. And it just hasn't really been a priority, I think, within the general health care settings to insist that the food offerings are better.
I wouldn't normally associate this with a hospital area, but you guys are going to have cocktails available. Tell me about that choice.
KL: It was an easy choice because of economics. The license for the size space that we have was available. So it's not like we had to go out and buy a bar license—which would have been prohibitive.
The other thing is that we expect to do some groups in the evening who want to have a special event here; a retirement party, or a promotion party, or fundraisers. So I think that people socializing after work is something that's nice, and there aren't many places to do it in the District.