Trends & Insights

Making the Switch to Speed Scratch in Healthcare

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

burgers for healthcareSpeed-scratch cooking has revolutionized how foodservice operators execute their menus by allowing them to keep food quality high—and production fast and efficient—while reducing labor. Many operators have found that the key to success is to use selected prepared food products along with scratch-made items.

In healthcare kitchens, the move away from patting out raw meat for burgers to using fully cooked burgers has been a natural progression. Take the high-volume burger bar at lunch at 750-bed Baptist Hospital in Miami, a showcase for the speed-scratch advantage of fully cooked burger patties.

At Baptist, rethermalized patties are held in a little beef broth at the bar, ready to serve. “The burgers are all lined up, nice and moist and flavorful, and you turn over a burger to a customer every 20 seconds,” says Stan Hodes, executive chef and manager of dining services operations at Baptist. Customers have a choice of several buns, cheeses and garnishes on the line, and they then move to a condiment bar to finish dressing their burgers.

This increase in efficiency and holding capability was instrumental the day Hodes served 3,000 free burgers to employees for a hospital event. “I was able to control the cost, because there was no shrinkage,” says Hodes. “When you do an event with 3,000 meals, every detail is a big detail.”

Fully cooked burgers also figure prominently in the menus of Golden Living, a Plano, Texas-based operator of 300 living centers for recovery care that average about 75 beds. The burgers were part of a wide-ranging menu upgrade that increased the quality, variety and number of choices for patients.

Now that patients can choose burgers and other items they enjoy, they are less likely to leave meals uneaten or to call the kitchen for special orders, reports Chef Darin Leonardson, director of hospitality and dining for Golden Living. That has resulted in a “huge” reduction in wasted food, Leonardson says. “We’re now able to order and produce what is actually needed, drastically improving our food cost. And our customer satisfaction scores went up because people are ordering what they like.”

Leonardson, a former chef in high-end restaurants, admits that he did not think much of fully cooked burgers until he tried one. “I said, ‘This is amazing. This is really good.’ I put aside my ego as a chef and thought about the efficiency and the cost savings, too.”

“To have a burger that consistently tastes the way we want, we decided on the precooked burger, especially if it is being held on the line in au jus,” says Leonardson. “It just really holds well.”

Speed-scratch solutions such as these also give operators confidence with food-safety regulations. “Raw meat is something that has to be handled with great care to maintain its wholesomeness and safety,” says Hodes. “But I don’t have the luxury of a dedicated kitchen space or dedicated staff to handle raw meat.”

Thus, Baptist Hospital uses fully cooked burgers. “I feel that any skill set in my kitchen can manage the safety of this product,” Hodes says.