What are two of the biggest challenges in hospital foodservice transitions?

Hospital foodservice

Seamless dining program transitions improve the customer experience and energize employees

Two of the bigger challenges we typically face when Unidine assumes responsibility for a hospital’s dining program are the existing staff and the existing kitchen. This is true whether the hospital previously self-operated or outsourced to a different contract foodservice company.

The first challenge is the transition of the existing staff. In most cases, the staff has been trained to heat prepackaged or frozen items and to meet health department regulatory requirements. Often, they lack real culinary and cooking skills.

To successfully implement a fresh food program, training is required for everything from basic knife skills to basic food preparation concepts.  Usually, any apprehension is quickly replaced with renewed confidence, energy and pride as the team members acquire new skills and see more opportunities for growth and advancement in a company that is changing the paradigm of food and dining management in healthcare. It is not unusual for us to discover individuals with a passion for cooking who had suppressed their skills and training, and then become leaders when given the opportunity.

The second challenge is reconfiguring a kitchen for fresh food production. Sometimes, it is as simple as moving a few things around. Other times, it is a little more involved. For example, formerly packed freezers sit virtually empty and take up space while walk-in refrigerators don’t have enough room for all the fresh ingredients. We work with our clients to ensure there is adequate food preparation space with the appropriate surfaces and tools and that the layout is conducive to an efficient food production flow.

Unidine’s experts work with clients before, during and after the transition to communicate opportunities to improve service and efficiency, develop a plan and timeline for capital improvements, and manage the process to position the hospital for success. But all of this is invisible to the patients and the customers of the hospital cafés whose experience with the transition is delicious, high-quality food, healthier options, and exceptional service.

This article was adapted from a case study, which tells the story of our successful transition at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

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