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Healthcare Foodservice Solutions During the Age of COVID

What is COVID-19

Healthcare foodservice operations are multifaceted and complex.  When you think about the different types of service required, it’s easy to understand why foodservice equipment needs to be dynamic, durable, and versatile in order to achieve operational objectives. When you consider the coronavirus and resulting COVID-19, those operations are even more complex.

In general, there are two types of operations, and within those operations, there are two types of service. There are additions, for sure, but as a rule of thumb, healthcare foodservice falls in either inpatient or out-patient applications. Within those applications, it’s either in-room dining for patients or residents, along with outside-the-room dining for medical staff and guests.

Let’s take a quick look at how COVID is impacting these distinct areas of healthcare foodservice.

SENIOR CARE & LONG TERM COMMUNITIES

As we look at inpatient care in the age of COVID, one of the hardest-hit segments of healthcare is, without a doubt, senior care and long term communities. This is due, in large part, because of age and compromising health conditions of residents.

Serving meals has largely gone directly to the residents’ rooms, as congregating in a dining room is much too dangerous for these populations. This, in turn, puts quality in jeopardy. Food must obviously be delivered safely, but the more time that elapses between the back-of-the-house and the bedside, the greater the chances food will lose heat, retain too much moisture, or even become unsafe.

There can be many solutions to these challenges. First is ensuring that plate warmers on the line are working properly and plates are the right temps.  Plates should be between 140-190 degrees coming out of the warmer.  Consider a laser thermometer to do spot checks on the top, middle, and bottom plates to confirm best results.  Next is getting the food plated and covered as soon as possible and into a tray cart for delivery.  Timers used in conjunction with a line up of tray carts are a great way to be sure meals aren’t plated and in the kitchen too long.  

If the community is not using trays, consider a mobile steam table that goes door-to-door.  This allows residents to choose exactly what they want and get hot food plated up right in front of them.  Don’t forget to have a hydration cart or other way to serve dry goods on hand as well.  

HOSPITALS

Like senior care and long term communities, hospitals must also provide foodservice for inpatient applications. In this case, though, patients are often amidst serious health conditions that make the success of a foodservice operation dependent on the health of the patient. Of course, the inverse is true, as well. 

In the age of COVID, making sure meals arrive at patient rooms while reducing the risk of potential exposure is critical. Sanitizing dinnerware and flatware to recommended standards is critical, and changing ordering practices can help minimize person-to-person risks. Like in senior care communities, hospitals can also adapt phone ordering as a way of eliminating potential exposure risks.

In hospitals, staff and patient guests must also be part of the foodservice equation. What are some of the ways to minimize risk to these groups? In many cases, buffet-service cafeterias are a primary source of service. Retrofit them to become more staff-service instead of self-serve. Provide ample spacing and prevent overcrowding with signs and barriers. And in dining areas, space tables to sufficient distances.

WHAT’S GOOD FOR HEALTHCARE FOODSERVICE IS GOOD FOR OUR HEALTH

It’s clear that food can have great impacts on our health and well-being. That’s never truer than in the facilities and communities where health is typically the main reason for being there. In order to get well, we need to consider foodservice solutions that promote wellness. And in the age of COVID, that means minimizing invisible risks we never thought possible in the ways we’re experiencing them today. That being said, there are equipment solutions and processes that can help.

Lakeside Has You Covered

We have compiled a list of product solutions to consider for healthcare foodservice in the age of COVID-19.  With industry leading lead times and the ability to modify anything to fit your specific needs, Lakeside is your partner in healthcare foodservice solutions.

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Umami – The 5th Flavor

Umami Saves The Taste (Buds): Elevating Food Flavor

Imagine you’re out to eat, about to be served. You know the food is ready when you smell the aroma from a few feet away. When it arrives to the table, your mouth begins to water at the sight of the dish you’ve been looking forward to. You take a bite, but it tastes bland. This can be rather disappointing if you have been anticipating a delicious meal. This is your senses at work. We use senses such as sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste to make judgments about the food we eat. We eat with our eyes first, smell second and taste last. Taste is the most influential in determining our enjoyment of a food. You might be familiar with the basic tastes like sweet, sour, salty and bitter, but we have an additional taste, also known as Umami.

Umami is a savory taste imparted by glutamate, found in dishes like meat, fish, vegetables and dairy products. The goal of Umami is to bring out the natural flavors in food and ultimately, enhance the flavoring of the food. Increasing the use of Umami in dishes could:

  1. Introduce new ingredients to food - The primary role of Umami is to make food more flavorful, but it also changes how our dishes are prepared. Umami can be used on its own or in conjunction with other flavors and foods, which opens up new ideas on traditional recipes.
  2. Increase food acceptability and consumption - When a food tastes good, we normally want to eat more of it. This is especially important when trying to increase intake of foods like fruits and vegetables. Umami can influence the perceptions of these foods in dishes and increase their overall acceptance on the plate.
  3. Reduce food waste - On the contrary, we naturally leave more food on the plate when we don’t like it. This can add to the pile of food wasted on a daily basis. Umami has the potential to reduce food waste by increasing the desirability of the dish. 
  4. Enhance overall customer experience - One of the most common objectives of a foodservice operation is to give the customer the best experience possible. If the food tastes good, there is higher customer satisfaction. This increases the chances might even recommend and rave about the food!

Try a simple taste test with your team. Add Umami to a portion of soup and one without. We have experienced this test and the difference was significant as adding Umami gave the broth a savory feel, without interfering with the texture or the presentation of it. Umami’s usage can have a huge impact on how your patients and customers enjoy their food. You may be surprised on the impact on the enjoyment of future dining experiences too, especially in those who have compromised or diminished taste buds due to illnesses or aging. Umami can give these populations better eating and tasting experiences thus, better consumption and nutrition.

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Sleep Can Affect the Workplace

“Sleep is for the weak” is a phrase commonly used to influence people to stay awake for longer hours, but have we considered the toll that a lack of sleep can take on health? At this year’s food nutrition conference and expo, there was session titled, Best of the Rest, that proposed sleep being a piece of the health puzzle with food choices and exercise too, presented by Dr. Michael Grandner.

Sleep is a biological process that starts with our sleep drive and our biological clock.  In this process, our body recovers and repairs from the day. So, what are the consequences of a lack of sleep?

Nutritionally, a lack of sleep can impair the immune system, putting us at a higher risk of getting sick. Also, those who aren’t getting enough sleep tend to gain weight and have higher susceptibility to chronic health conditions like obesity and hypertension. Not only are there health consequences (higher disability and insurance costs), but exhausted employees can have just as much of a negative impact on the workplace environment (productivity levels, falls, mistakes)

A lack of sleep increases our sleep drive, meaning, we feel more tired as we go about our day. Our brain is constantly sending signals to the body that we need rest. This is why we have a harder time concentrating when we are tired. Inadequate sleep makes it difficult to make complex decisions, resulting in a lack of effective communication amongst team members. This can hinder productivity levels and set the tone of their environment daily. Currently, over 30% of people don’t get good sleep.

 Steps that can be taken to ensure you and your team members get your z’s?

  1. Your work environments-consider the design of Zen gardens and rest venues. Napping boosts alertness and accuracy.  Nappers are more alert, respond faster and better, and make fewer mistakes. Even a 20-minute nap was found to improve alertness and performance among shift workers.
  2. Replicate these type of design for employees -Recharge rooms, nap pods.
  3. Inservice training included with orientations, etc. to educate what can tips to  get a better-quality sleep.
  4. picking an optimal time and amount of sleep. The recommended amount of sleep is 7-9 hours for adults.
  5. Minimize any light exposure during sleep can also disturb the sleep cycle.
  6. Avoid smart devices or tv screens before going to sleep
  7. Minimize or avoid smoking and alcohol several hours before your bedtime

Keep in mind that these recommendations go hand in hand with a healthy lifestyle, food options and exercise. Promoting lifestyle practices in the workplace can have plenty of benefits including: reduced health care costs, increased concentration for effective decision making and overall, higher workplace productivity.

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Grandma and George Jetson Come to Dinner

The culinary world is forever changing, as new technology and scientific evidence shapes how people perceive food, health and the overall dining experience. It seems that people are trying to get back to basics - attempting to form better relationships with their food and understanding where it comes from. We are starting to become more aware of what we’re eating and what is going on our plates. In 2018, we can expect to see an increase in seasonal cooking and more plant-based diets. As our knowledge of certain foods and their health benefits increases, we are now becoming alert to things like gut health and how fermented foods can help with our digestion and overall health.

This year, we can expect to see the comeback of quite a few “old-age” themes with food and the actual dining experience. There has already been an increase of zero waste bulk-buy stores as people are becoming more aware of the amount of waste they produce, and that trend does not seem to be slowing down anytime soon. These stores also tend to sell organic and sustainable foods and honestly make the grocery shopping fun! Another comeback we can expect to see is the experience of dining as a social event, not just sitting and eating food like it’s a chore. Some restaurants have already started introducing ‘communal dining’, where people can sit down with friends, family or complete strangers which can enhance your dining experience...well, depending on who is sitting at the table with you.

However, sustainability is an issue that food manufacturers, scientists and food engineers need to overcome due to the growing population and the depleted resources that we will face in the not-so-distant future. Finding sustainable methods of food production is going to be the main goal over the next few years, kicking off in 2018. Waste production is going to be a major focus this year, as breakthroughs in nano-packaging and 3D printing will change the way foods are not only packaged, but also cooked and stored. Nano-packaging has already shown to give foods a much longer shelf life, without the use of preservatives. As people become more conscious of what food they are consuming, information platforms will become readily available to help educate people on waste production all the way to the chemical compositions of foods.

Overall, the entire world of food and hospitality is going to change in 2018. From the change in diets, what foods are available and how we consume them to how foods are grown, produced and packaged. It’s going to be a long year ahead, but remember:

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.- Virginia Woolf

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Patients Eat With Their Eyes First

How a food looks tell the patient a lot about the food and the foodservice team accountability and experience. People use the way a food looks to judge the food for freshness and quality. When the food is visually appealing to a patient, you accomplish your mission of providing nourishment for the recovery and healing of your patients.

COLOR, SHAPE, SIZE AND POSITION OF FOOD MATTERS IN VISUAL APPEAL

COLOR: The most impactful eye appeal

  • Break up the colors
  • Enhance the colors
  • Make it “glisten”
  • Keep the colors natural

SHAPE: Ingredients

  • Vary the cuts of ingredients
  • Add textures to the dish

STYLE: Arranging ingredients, plating

  • Traditional – The Y style of plating
  • Modern plating
  • Simplicity

Aroma Strategies:

  • Include variety
  • Add flavor to comfort food
  • Herbs add color, taste and smell
  • Cooking techniques can enhance aroma and experience
  • Be aware of visual placement on the tray, temperature awareness, less is more, easy to handle and maneuver on tray space

For more on this topic, click here to watch Alluserv's last webinar!

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Milliseconds and Millimeters Matter

Ergonomics is an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely — also called biotechnology, human engineering, or human factors. Ergonomics affects all ages, all professions and all aspects of daily living.


Human Factors

Consider these conditions/requirements when evaluating equipment:

The goal is to monitor all work activities that permit the worker to adopt several different, but equally healthy and safe postures. Identify where muscular force has to be exerted, localize it to the largest appropriate muscle groups available. Where motion is performed, target the joints at about mid-point of their range of movement, particularly for the head, trunk, and upper limbs.


Lost or Found $$$

When making a decision to select equipment, one key objective is; get most done in the shortest amount of time in the most efficient manner. There are many nuances that may attribute to a lower price for a piece of equipment however, these attributes may in fact result in a higher Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Will this specific product increase or decrease:

  • Productivity
  • FTE's
  • Injuries/Call Offs
  • Errors/Mistakes
  • Cleaning Times
  • Maintenance

If any result in an increase, “Houston, we may have a problem.”


Time is money! Distance is time!

If the equipment happens to be “X” millimeters wider/longer/taller/shorter, and, this results in an increase or decrease by “Y” milliseconds to complete a task, what is that cost or gain to the operation?

Although a few mm or ms may appear insignificant initially, an increase, positive or negative, by example, reduce or add 400 milliseconds to complete a task (the time it takes to blink), repeated say, 1,000 times per meal period, that’s 400k milliseconds for the meal period, about 6.7 minutes. 6.7 minutes, no big deal, right? Then, multiply this by three meal periods and that’s 20 minutes per day. Still not a lot of time but you could get quite a bit done with 20 minutes of “found time” each day.

Let’s take this example a bit further. 20 minutes a day translates to 7,300 minutes per year, 122 hours. Over a seven year life-span for the piece of equipment, that totals 850 hours +/-. If the average wage is $15/hr, that’s $12,750. You can add or subtract this from your TCO to help make your decision.

Considering this one example, multiplied by each work station, for multiple tasks per station, and suddenly, you have good reason to look very closely into the ergonomic impact of every piece of equipment.

Use these findings to reduce FTE’s or repurpose work assignments. Either way, you have a “win.”


By The Way

Also, imagine if you could reduce one call-off per year per FTE due to reduction in back injuries, that’s another 56 hours added to your bottom line.

How about one less “call back tray or courtesy tray” per meal period? … that’s $15/day, $450/month, $5,475/year in direct cost savings.


Help

There are solutions, the Alexander Technique, a training program to help individuals to better understand how their bodies react to work/stress and how to avoid habits that negatively impact their well-being.

The right meal assembly set up can reduce minutes and increase time to get meals to patients. Modifiable equipment that works with your people. No one size fits all. Alluserv’s is ready to help! Modifiable tray starter stations, heights and widths for meal delivery carts, tray lines, etc...

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Parsley, Carrot Curls, Radish Flowers, Oh My!

A garnish is an item or substance used as a decoration or embellishment accompanying a prepared food dish or drink. In many cases, it may give added or contrasting flavor or texture. Some garnishes are selected mainly to augment the visual impact of the plate, while others are selected specifically for the flavor they may impart This is in contrast to a condiment, a prepared sauce added to another food item primarily for its flavor. A food item which is served with garnish may be described as being Garni, the French term for 'garnished.' Many garnishes in the past were not intended to be eaten but today is a different culinary playground.


I went to some of the foodservice culinarian leaders and asked them these questions:

  1. Can the food be the garnish?
  2. Or are traditional garnishes still mode of operation?
  3. What does a garnish do for the experience?

Here are their insights:

“In my opinion food should be the garnish in its own edible form. The old form of garnishes are out of trend. You might say, Elvis Parsley is no longer king or has left the restaurant! I prefer to see the plate like an artist palate. For example, a beet carpaccio with fanned out sliced beets with a dollop of goat cheese is eye catching and makes the food more appealing. Customers eat with their eyes and this is precisely why you see so many customers taking food selfies. The top restaurateurs understand "the art of food is from their palate to your palate."


“Food garnishes in their traditional forms are edible, however does a person dining actually eat a piece of parsley on a prepared dish? Not to say that they can’t but most don’t eat the garnish as it hasn’t been appealing or appetizing. If the garnish becomes part of the dish and is the right component of the dish it can enhance the flavor or texture profile when consumed with the dish. For example, I make a braised boneless beef short ribs sliders with garnish of caramelized onions. It can be actually the best dining experiences are when the garnish becomes part of the embellishment of a dish to enhance the customers palate.”


An herb’s blossom tastes like the herb itself. So, thyme blossoms are subtly thyme-flavored; arugula blossoms taste like arugula, with a hint of honeysuckle. In season, look for blossoming herbs at the farmers’ market — or in the vegetable garden. Notice how an ordinary bunch of rosemary or sage is flecked with delicate, perfumed flowers.

Of course, there are other beautiful edible flowers to consider, like calendula and nasturtium and borage and marigold, ready to sprinkle, like fairy dust, as a garnish, or to make your food even more colorful.


Today’s culinary playground is fierce as foodservice venues and chefs try to compete with each other for dining clients and loyalty.

Variety and purpose of garnishes are being reimagined. It needs to become an important component of sustainability as in the past, the garnish in a traditional sense was added as eye appeal then discarded by the customer and not consumed. Waste!! However, if a chef creates a garnish that can be consumed and enhances the customer dining experience, the garnish becomes that add flavor or texture that separates recipes from competitors’ recipes. See pictures slideshow of other ideas to incorporate into your flavor, taste and sight experience. Use your imagination and reach beyond. We eat with our eyes and if it looks and tastes better we can get better nutrition too!

Written by Marsha Diamond, MA, RDN

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Top 10 Reasons Your Facility Should Be Gluten/Allergen Free

10. Raise Awareness – Heightened awareness is critical to the welfare of this population so that they can be served safely by knowledgeable staff and facilities.  We are very passionate about this cause and try to spread the word as much as possible.

9. Fulfill the Need - As demonstrated by the trends and facts, this topic requires greater awareness to meet the needs of the patients, residents and patrons.

8. Ease Your Worries – Putting a formal program into your facility will ease your worries that people can dine safely and have their needs met.  No one wants to see people get sick.

7.  Take Pride – This is a wonderful opportunity to provide a work environment that is topnotch and demonstrates caring and that you have taken the extra step to do the right thing!

6. Instill Confidence – The most important aspect of providing a formal program is that you will instill confidence with the patients, residents and patrons that you know what you are doing and that they should not fear that they will get sick.  In addition, the staff will have a renewed sense of confidence as they have been given the knowledge to do the right thing.

5.  Pro-Active – Be the first and become a role model.

4. Regulatory Compliance – From the start, develop the program so that it will be compliant with the FDA Labeling Laws and other regulatory body standards - federal, state, local, Joint Commission.

3. Well Educated Staff – Knowledge is power which will increase confidence in the patients, residents and patrons, and your staff.  This new program needs to be comprehensive so that it covers all facets including clinical and practical aspects.

2. Change Agent- Start a movement and be a best practice facility for your peers to look up to.  It will be great publicity for your institution

1.  Patient/Patron Safety and Satisfaction!!!!! – Ultimate Goal which can be accomplished with the implementation of a formal gluten/allergen-free food service program following the guidelines presented today.