Trends & Insights

It's Nutritious, It's Delicious, It's Hospital Food

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The term “hospital food” conjures many images, such as patients on a pudding diet and visitors scrounging hospital hallways for a satisfying meal or snack. But there is so much more to hospital food than most people realize: both cafeteria fare and patient meals can be every bit as delicious as that tapioca pudding Grandpa can’t put down and as nutritious as a home-cooked meal.

The reason why hospital food delivers? According to the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers, “patient satisfaction – and health – ties directly to revenue.” One way to tell if a hospital measures up is the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems, a standardized, national and publicly reported survey of patients' perspectives of hospital care. Food is a factor to patient satisfaction, and contributing to high scores is impetus for foodservice managers to provide satisfying options.

Because the survey is important, hospitals have dialed up the heat on foodservice providers for more nutritious dining options while ensuring meals found in the cafeteria not only are affordable for visitors but also for the doctors, nurses and staff members who eat at the cafeteria every day.

Long story short – good food is good for business. If bad food leaves a bad taste in the mouths of patients and visitors, their dissatisfaction may influence where they schedule that next procedure, causing the hospital’s bottom line to be in need of medical attention.

A successful hospital food operation isn’t without its challenges, however. Changing up the menu and keeping food affordable can be tricky. According to Foodservice Equipment and Supplies Magazine, hospitals are faced with both limited kitchen space and the challenge of meeting the needs of increasingly sophisticated and discerning patients and retail customers. They also must choose between providing a central location, like a cafeteria, or multiple satellite locations throughout the facility.  

Hospitals can overcome some of these hurdles by choosing versatile products. Menu staples such as burgers are making a renaissance with their ability to be “dressed up” with premium ingredients or satisfy those consumers seeking a familiar meal.  

“A good burger never goes out of style, and the burger combinations that are showing up on today’s menus offer endless possibilities to foodservice operations that aren’t normally regarded as dining destinations, such as hospitals,” says Vivian Overcash, burger category manager for AdvancePierre® Foods. “Offerings like the flame-grilled, fully cooked The PUB® Steak Burger are easy on the kitchen –  with fast prep and easy cleanup – and can elevate the sophistication of the menu without pricing itself off the menu.”

Creating stations at which consumers can customize their meals – whether assembling a salad or burrito or building a sandwich – gives consumers variety and control, despite constraints like a limited menu or small kitchen space. And while healthy meal options always will be critical in hospital foodservice, don’t completely eliminate items considered an indulgence.  

Let’s face it – the hospital isn’t exactly the most popular place to visit or stay. But, fortunately, food offerings can make the trip a bit more pleasurable. (Really!) Learn more about balancing nutrition and indulgence in healthcare here.

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