The preconceived notion that healthcare food service offers only bland and monotonous dining options has plagued the industry for decades, but in recent years as more healthcare systems have opted to contract out their culinary services, there has been a major shift in the overall quality of hospital food programs. This transition has prompted a new chef-inspired approach to culinary services, which has led to better offerings of appetizing food and a positive change within healthcare foodservice industry.
The development of a reputable culinary department not only reflects upon the quality and variety of food being created, but it also has a deeper underlying connection between the hospital and the community. James Maddi, Vice President of HHS Culinary, shared exclusive insight into how contract foodservice programs are now expanding beyond the walls of the hospital and becoming an integral part of the community.
“Healthcare foodservice departments have a unique opportunity. Not only do they have a captive audience who rely on their services everyday, but they also have the unique position to offer quality, affordable food to non-hospital affiliated community members,” states Maddi.
“In towns and cities overrun by the fast food industry, it can be hard to find fresh, healthy meal options, which commonly results in people searching the area for better choices. That’s when hospitals come into play. Hospital food is a great value and that value is driven by offering a variety of options that can please any palate,” adds Maddi. “Hospital cafeterias serve multiple choices of premium entrees and sides, usually only costing around five dollars for a meal. Not only that, visitors are also going to be eating a lot healthier than they would be at a fast food chain, and chances are, it will be for a lot less.”
“By making note of regional food challenges, whether that be limited or unhealthy dining options, hospital culinary teams can adapt their menus and programs to better serve the needs not only of the hospital, but also of the community."
"I’ve seen great success from culinary departments who have researched and developed simple initiatives to extend their reach outside the hospital," continues Maddi. “Recently, a culinary team in Arkansas grasped this opportunity and began hosting regular Sunday brunch at the hospital. Once word got out, large numbers of guests started attending and even started making it part of their Sunday morning routine because of the delicious meal options and attractive price point. This activity also brought people together, and had the hospital serving as a safe, welcoming place where people could visit and enjoy each other’s company while savoring flavorful and nutritious chef-inspired dishes.”
Maddi expands, “Once loyalty is established, people are more apt to frequent the hospital cafeteria and may even develop relationships with some of the staff. The more involved and dedicated the culinary team, the more it positively reflects back on the hospital by increasing brand awareness and the creation of a new revenue stream. Although it may seem miniscule in comparison to other revenue sourcing service lines, every aspect offered by the foodservice department - from the reasonably priced and tasty food to the hospitality-focused approach to service - can help the hospital’s name stay on top of the community’s mind; which can prove to be extremely beneficial if those individuals ever find themselves or a loved one in need of a healthcare provider.”
The transition to a more chef-inspired approach to healthcare foodservice has reflected positively on the industry and has given hospitals a unique opportunity to utilize the culinary department as a new source of revenue and community outreach. By opening the doors and extending the reach outside the facility’s walls, hospitals can begin building a genuine rapport with the community and serve not only as an asset in healthcare, but as an asset to the overall well-being of the citizens.