4/26/2012 6:55 AM
More hospitals continue to tailor their food service programs to leave patients satisfied. From a ‘chef’s special’ menu to a room service approach, hospitals continue to encourage food service professionals to push the envelope. Offering flexibility in your menu not only will satisfy patients’ appetites, but also allow you to better cater to dietary restrictions and provide nutrients essential to recovery. Having the option of made-to-order meals is one way hospitals are putting flexibility back into their menus.
When patients are battling cancer and other medical conditions, many times their taste buds are affected, limiting the amount of flavors they are able to enjoy. Hospitals with a made-to-order meal program are able to address this concern by incorporating the ingredients patients can still taste into the recipe. Having a team of chefs that are able to create meals from scratch to offer patients a unique entrée is also advantageous when developing a menu for patients with diabetic or cardiac concerns. With the right team in place, your hospital can overcome the myth that healthy, nutritional food is bland and offers no flavor. Letting your chefs’ creativity flourish will help to convince patients that healthy food can be tasty too. Producing specialized meals allows hospitals to better meet nutritional needs, as well as appetites, enhancing the healing environment.
Made-to-order meals may also alleviate the need to collect patients’ meal orders the night before. Many hospitals with this room service approach are able to take same day orders and deliver meals outside of the normal meal times. For example, one Indiana hospital offers a specialized menu of over 70 items and takes patient orders when their appetite hits. For those needing to fill their stomachs during the night, a snack and drink menu is also available. Hospitals are increasing convenience by serving meals over an expanded period of time.
It is understandable that many hospitals are not able to having an entirely original made-to-order menu. To combat the concerns of preparation time and ingredients available, numerous hospitals offer base entrées that can then be customized to the patient’s nutritional guidelines and taste buds. Made-to-order omelets, pancakes, pastas, pizza, smoothies, and shakes are common offerings as ingredients can be easily altered. Giving patients the choice from the start will also reduce food waste as undesirable food is eliminated from being left on the plate. Flexibility is key to your patient’s satisfaction with their meals.
The cost of implementing made-to-order meals is a notable concern. However, many hospitals have found that the daily room charge that is applied to absorb meal and other costs is very similar to when a traditional meal program is in place. Additional kitchen staff may have to be added, but many times the reduction in food waste helps to absorb this additional cost. Some hospitals are also able to adjust schedules to better accommodate a room service meal program. To better accommodate food service changes, hospitals may explore a pod assembly system and add equipment that simplifies delivery. Alluserv’s room service carts (RSDC Series Carts) have six and twelve tray capacities, optimal for hospitals providing specialized meals. With the right staff, layout, and equipment in place, the benefits of converting to a room service style could outweigh the costs.
Made-to-order meals will continue to revolutionize hospital food service as chefs are able to elevate their recipes. With specialized meals, hospitals can provide that additional satisfying factor that offers nutritional value and comfort to patients.
Are your patients able to order specialized meals? Has patient satisfaction increased since your hospital started serving made-to-order meals?