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The Future of Patient Dining

The Future of Patient Dining

Carlene Walker, Patient Corporate Research and Development Chef
Jeffrey Quasha, Senior Director of Culinary Innovation

When hospitalized for two weeks in 2016 undergoing a stem cell transplant for multiple myeloma cancer, Chef Jeffrey Quasha eagerly

anticipated each of his meals. “Except for seeing my doctors, food was the high point of my day. I experienced immense joy with a good meal and disappointment with those I didn’t like. So, I know how important a meal that tastes delicious and is healthy for our patients.”

During the past seven years, Chef Quasha, Morrison’s Senior Director of Culinary Innovation, has reinvented retail healthcare food service. Now, it’s time to do the same for the tens of thousands of patients Morrison serves daily.

Chef Carlene Walker has been appointed as Morrison’s Patient Corporate Research and Development Chef. She’s responsible for selecting and vetting patient care recipes, introducing new brands and limited time offers (LTOs), and serving patients their favorite regional meals.

The Morrison culinary innovation team held a meeting with 50 Morrison Corporate Chefs to discuss the new dining concept and changes to patient menus. Several chefs volunteered to be a part of the pilot program and their menu ideas will be reflected in upcoming patient recipes.

“We all agree we have the unique opportunity to redefine how food is presented to patients and make Morrison synonymous with ‘best in class’ service,” said Quasha.  “Giving patient food service a modern, restaurant approach will set us apart while continuing to provide healthy food for our patients.”

While not limited to these tactics, Chefs Quasha and Walker say patient dining will soon include the following:

It Starts with the Server. Patients will be treated like guests in an upscale restaurant. Instead of asking patients to place meal orders from a standard hospital menu, scripts will be provided to patient dining managers and their teams, who will address each patient as a valued customer. For example, instead of asking what entrée they want to order, a patient dining associate may say, “Good evening, Mrs. Smith. We have two special entrees tonight. Let me tell you what we have.”

Meal Presentation Will Be Critical. Instead of paper, plastic, and other disposable materials, many meals will be served on upscale China plates with heavier silverware. Removing that institutional look is key to changing the perception of “patient food.” Future plans include substituting plastic cups used for yogurt, fruit, and some desserts with 4-ounce China bowls. “The entire tray needs to convey an upscale dining experience one would have in a restaurant,” Quasha says.

More High-Quality, Healthy Entrees. Patients will have more diverse menu options. While high-quality entrees featuring chicken, beef, and fish will still be available, patients will have additional daily, as well as seasonal specials to choose from.

“A patient may choose our Octoberfest special, which includes crispy pork schnitzel served with braised red cabbage and butter noodles, and you have to add a slice of German chocolate cake,” Quasha says. “Then, they may call back for dinner and say they are in the mood for something different. We can offer them a Green Goddess Cobb salad, a fresh seasonal soup, or the Ultimate BLT. And, the next night, they can have a smoky paprika-crusted salmon served over with cheddar cheese grits with braised collards, plated restaurant style in a China bowl.”

Because creating more complex entrees may require more time and attention, food delivery will also be examined. “Putting the dish on a 200-degree plate and under a dome may be impeccable when it leaves the kitchen, but what will the food look like when the patients get it?” says Quasha.

Using Retail Concepts for Patient Dining

In his previous position as Director of Retail Culinary Innovation, Jeffrey and his team developed over 58 concepts including pop-up restaurants, limited time offers, and rotating brands for the retail cafés. Under his leadership, the team also created six vegetable concepts with zero food waste. Many concepts introduced in Morrison cafés in recent years will be reviewed and slightly modified for patient dining.

Like Chef Quasha, Chef Walker knows patients value healthy, nutritious food. After seeing the poor quality of meals her father was being given daily at a local hospital, she joined Compass Group in 2015 to use her culinary knowledge and improve the patient experience.

“My father’s meals were often poorly plated with dried-out meats, overcooked eggs, and food he wouldn’t normally eat, such as meatloaf with too much gravy,” she says. “He was not treated at a Morrison account, but it really shouldn’t matter. Everyone should be able to receive a meal that is appealing to eat and has the power to heal your body.”

To demonstrate how patients will have more choices in the future, Chef Walker offered patients four protein entrees for Thanksgiving: turkey, airline chicken breast, baked chicken breast, and pork loin all served with mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, green beans, roll, and pumpkin pie. It was the first time Morrison had offered holiday-themed meals for patients.

As part of the pilot plan rollout in 2023, Chef Walker plans 12 months of holiday menus and plans to introduce limited time offers each quarter.

In December 2022, the Christmas menu included beef burgundy with mushroom demi, roasted fingerling potatoes, and citrus-roasted brussels sprouts. Plant-based options included balsamic roasted portabella mushrooms, cauliflower mashed potatoes, and citrus-roasted brussels sprouts.

For New Year’s Eve, patients had a choice of smoked paprika salmon, country cheese grits, and collard greens with black-eye peas. Another option was smoked paprika cauliflower steak with country cheese grits, and collard greens with black-eyed peas.

The LTOs will be offered quarterly. For the April-June quarter, there will be a Greek theme: A Mediterranean mezze plate, chicken and lamb gyros, Greek yogurt with pistachio, and baklava crumble.

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