Healthcare organizations around the country are looking for the next normal. Through efforts to find a place in our current COVID-19 situation and beyond, hospitals have embraced creativity and newly revised best practices to better care for patients, families, and communities. With new insights, we are getting a better understanding of the New Face of Healthcare Food and Nutrition Services.
Hospital cafés have been hit hard by COVID-19. Retail foodservice numbers are down as hospital census numbers have dipped and visitation restrictions have been put in place. That has led to changes in guest dining behavior. Through research, Morrison Healthcare has found a wide range of expectations from diners about going out to eat and retail foodservice. Guest expectations best fit within three categories:
Get Back to Normal—guests who are already enthusiastically returning to their favorite restaurants with friends and family.
Cautiously Optimistic—guests who likely are closely watching the situation, waiting to make sure proper protocols are in place before eating out
Wait and See—the most conservative group who are watching the situation unfold and are hesitant to visit a restaurant in person, instead opting for takeaway service.
Through these insights, we have a greater understanding of the challenges for retail foodservice. Coupled with learnings from across the country, Morrison Healthcare wants to share its best practices to help hospitals get back on their feet and reach the next normal for cafés.
In light of the current social distancing and infection reduction protocols, it can be a challenge to bring excitement and variety to a café. In many cases, consumers are prioritizing safety when making purchasing decisions. Survey data shows that safety is more important to diners than variety and even restaurant service. With that in mind, here are some thoughts for key areas of café service.
Breakfast Bar—Look for opportunities to pre-package food items like pastries, fruit, yogurt and breakfast sandwiches. This will not only speed up the operation but limit guest exposure to food items.
Salad Bar—Change the function of the salad bar. Make it a manned station, where a team member serves items to the guest. Another option is to put an emphasis on pre-made wraps and salads that are placed in the salad bar wells.
Grill—Look for opportunities to feature limited time offers and pop-up food options to create excitement. Also, pre-wrapped deserts and bottled water by the grill may become popular items.
Pizza—Find ways to eliminate waste. Offering artisan whole pizzas will create excitement and minimize the amount of leftovers in the café. Take-home meal options are a great way to engage the healthcare staff who will can pick up dinner at the end of their shift.
Deli—Offer pre-made sandwiches and wraps in a location away from the deli will offer guests both speed and variety.
Beverages—With fountain drink stations closed, serve bottled beverages or have manned coffee stations to maintain protocols and safety.
Safety is critical in foodservice. Hospitals cafés need to have rigorous safety protocols in place and communicate those initiatives to patients and guests. This means improving confidence in the food and nutrition services and retail operation through:
The health and safety of employees, patients and guests is the number one priority. To raise confidence in the foodservice operation, demonstrate safety protocols to guests. Associates should wear gloves and masks at all times. Also, create new contactless ordering processes that allow orders to be handed to the guest on a sanitized tray. Guests can take their order from the tray ensuring no contact is made.
Per CDC guidelines, social distancing (6 feet) should be maintained at every point of the process. When possible, this should apply to associates as well. Look for opportunities to alter processes in order to maintain distance.
The same is true in the dining rooms. Dining rooms should have one empty table between each patron to help with social distancing. Additionally, seating areas are wiped down after each guest with self-service wipes available at each table.
Clear and concise messaging throughout cafes will help ensure guests feel confident in the retail space, particularly with messaging around: contactless ordering, contactless payment, and sanitation standards.
Guests should feel confident when checking out. The best way to create this confidence is through contactless ordering and checkout. Cashiers should not handle boxed or bagged food. Have guests insert their own credit cards, when Apple/Google Pay is not available.
Armed with these best practices, guests will have a better understanding of the safety efforts in place and have confidence in dining at hospital cafés. Additionally, there are numerous online resources that can guide hospital administrators to find the right solution. Morrison Healthcare has put together a COVID-19 How-To Guide that lays out best practices and how Morrison is tackling the problem.