Hospital food had a tough reputation. Foodservice is a common source of patient complaints for administrators. The same can be said for the families who are spending long hours at the bedside. But many hospitals have begun to make major changes through a new emphasis on creating unique experiences.
The movement to revolutionize hospital food really began in the last decade and in the last several years is truly starting to take shape, leading to improved experiences for patients and hospital employees. Today, the foodservice at many hospitals is unrecognizable from the old days of fried food and stagnant menus. Traditional cafeterias are starting to become more like food halls that bring new concepts and authentic experiences similar to some of an area’s favorite local restaurants.
“Everyone saw what was happening on college campuses and airport dining,” said Kevin Dorr, vice president of Retail Solutions, Morrison Healthcare. “Now, colleges and airport food operations are providing unique experiences and are leveraging technology. For a while, people thought healthcare was immune to these trends, but as consumers began expecting better experiences, we quickly seized the opportunity to deliver. We believe that food and the retail experience can be an important point of difference for any healthcare organization.”
And it’s no wonder there is a need for more diverse and higher quality options in hospitals. According to the North American Association of Food Equipment Manager’s Datassential report, 76 percent of patients and residents eat every meal at their hospital or long-term care facility. In the retail space, that creates both a challenge and an opportunity.
“One of the biggest challenges to onsite dining is always variety,” said Dorr. “Our guests are eating with us 4-5 times a week, sometimes multiple meals. It’s a challenge to keep both the food and experience fresh and interesting.”
That’s why Dorr says Morrison Healthcare has been at the forefront of reimagining hospital foodservice and pioneering the implementation of pop-up brands.
“We are reimagining what retail can bring to a brand,” said Dorr. “The old days of hospital foodservice are gone. The future is authentic experiences where customers have numerous options for dining that regularly rotate. From a steaming bowl of ramen one day to an incredible Buddha bowl the next. This gives our guests something to be excited about and even introduce them to new food experiences along the way.”
One example of the shift can be seen in Asheville, N.C., at Mission Hospital where Morrison operates a stylish new café that looks and feels much more like a food hall than any hospital cafeteria. The 12,000 square foot location speaks to the trends in hospital foodservice by matching food concepts with wellness and customer expectations. Hospital employees, patients and family members can enjoy authentic ingredients at the café and experience a different food journey with every single visit.
When creating concepts, Dorr says it’s important to tell a story through food.
“Transparency and authenticity are critical,” said Dorr. “Customers want to know the story of their food, what’s in it, where it came from, and even who made it. It gives us a great opportunity to connect with our guests in a meaningful way”
In recent years, Morrison has met this shifting consumer demand through innovation and creativity. We currently operate 10 micro–concepts, which are branded experiences, rather than generic foodservice. We have also developed over 20 pop-up brands that offer regional cuisine from lobster rolls to Cuban food. These pop-up brands lend themselves to a food hall environment where customers have numerous options.
Morrison is continuing to expand our offerings through a new initiative called “Entrée Reimagined,” which puts a unique spin on traditional cafeteria food. It is a lighter and creative view of cafeteria food that can scale to any healthcare environment.
Hospital food has come a long way. Caring for patients and their families remains at the heart of everything we do. By providing variety, quality and authenticity in hospital foodservice, we are doing our part to improve outcomes and experiences.
If you’d like to learn more about the future of hospital foodservice, please contact us.