Why Contract Food ServiceLearn More
There is a stigma when it comes to hospital food service. It’s something chefs discuss often. From the perception of the industrialized tray and unappetizing entrees, there is a need to redefine hospital dining and take down those preconceived notions.
It starts with understanding our audience. When I look across the 1,000+ hospitals Morrison Healthcare services, 53 percent of patients are on a regular diet. When we expand that to heart healthy and low sodium diets, that inflates to nearly 76 percent. These are all patients who are looking for regular food. As a result, we need to understand our diners and change our own perceptions about what food should be offered.
In the hospital, we have a captive audience. That gives us three chances a day to create raving fans. In the context of trends in healthcare food, we need to put hospitality back into hospital food. That starts with the patient.
Great Food First
Cooking great food starts with fresh vegetables and real cooking. Before everything else, we must deliver great food. It is the first step in improving the patient experience and creating raving fans. That means staying on top of the latest trends and putting flavor above everything else.
We see culinary trends come and go. It is vital for us to stay relevant and on top of the latest trends. I like to tell my chefs that if we see it at a fast-food restaurant then we are late. We have to be early adopters and drive the utilization of new ingredients, recipes and preparations.
The veg-centric movement is at the heart of this. Chefs across the country has fueled growth in this sector by strategically developing dishes that replace meat with plant-forward ingredients. These craveable dishes have paved the way for a renaissance of meatless cuisine where items previously only thought of as side items can take center stage on a menu.
Additionally, a global mindset when it comes to menu development can put us on the right path. As we look at trends, we see an ebb and flow of global cuisine. From my perspective, there are four stages of global cuisine trends: Inception, Adoption, Proliferation, Ubiquity. It is important for us to recognize the coming trends and incorporate those cultural elements into our food at an early stage (Inception) instead of waiting until it has proliferated common culture.
In 2024, we are looking to incorporate Filipino, Peruvian and Korean Street food into our menus. Ceviche is also a dish we expect to see more of. These items are important because assimilating global tastes into our menus helps us to serve a growingly diverse population. We have an opportunity to cater to our audiences by embracing their culinary and cultural roots through the food we serve. As a result, we are building the menu of the future with this in mind.
Delivering Guest Experiences
As I referenced, we have three opportunities a day to change someone’s experience in the hospital. This is both a challenge and opportunity that no other area of the foodservice industry faces. We must elevate the diner’s experience to change perceptions about hospital food.
For patients, innovation can come in the form of new features or specials. Seasonal offerings through limited-time menus can bring dynamic flavors to patient menus. Additionally, taking the energy and excitement from retail dining to the patient’s plate can make a hospital bed feel like a pop-up dining experience.
Ultimately, the most vital way we are elevating the guest experience is through technology, which has the potential to disrupt the status quo. We’ve already seen this in many aspects of retail dining, but the same is true for patient dining. Integrating technology into the ordering experience provides new opportunities for patients to get what they want when they want it.
We are seeing success with mobile ordering, iPad ordering or providing in-patient dining menus through QR codes. When a patient is in the hospital, they have little control over their situation. If we can provide them with options and deliver a good experience, we can drastically impact their entire stay at the hospital. Technology also gives us new forms of data that allow us to make better decisions for future menu development.
Through technology, we get feedback on the service we are providing, which allows us to perform service recovery if there is a problem or to call out the success of our team internally. We are going to see new forms of technology integrated into hospital dining, bringing new opportunities to elevate the patient and retail dining experience.
Investing in the Future of Chefs
Chefs are at the core of providing great hospital dining. We must invest in their futures and cultivate the next generation of talent. That starts with fighting the stigma of being a healthcare chef. We work with the best ingredients and prepare dynamic, on-trend menus. Hospital dining provides a unique challenge and it is something we should be celebrating to culinary school graduates.
As part of this, we should invest in the education and training of chefs. That means more apprenticeship opportunities for young chefs. There is a lot of institutional and culinary knowledge among long-serving chefs which can be transferred to the next generation, providing a foundation that allows them to be creative and on-trend. Additionally, we should support chefs as they seek additional certifications specific to nutrition. More chefs with Certified Culinary Medicine Professional (CCMP), Certified Executive Chef (CEC), and other certifications will enhance the prominence of hospital dining and put strong leadership in place for years to come.
We have an opportunity to change perceptions about hospital dining. To do that, we must elevate the patient and diner’s experience with new technology and great, on-trend menus. Through this journey, we will put hospitality back into hospital food. After all, it’s not just hospital food. It’s great food.
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