2010 Menu Development survey: In menus, diversity rules

Chefs and operators are becoming more adventurous with their menus but there are still limits to what they can achieve.

Hospitals, many of which have a wide variety of ethnicities represented among their staffs, see similar variety in their menu diversity.

“We have two favorites, Mexican and Thai,” says Patti Oliver, food and nutrition services director at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. So, she adds, she alternates menu items to keep both camps happy.

“We have an International Corner in the dining commons, which features different ethnic entrées each day,” she explains. “Mondays are tostadas and Thursdays rotate between burritos, flautas and sopas. All are huge sellers. On Tuesdays we have a curry bar, with a choice of salmon, chicken, beef or lamb, and the house is always packed on that day. The curry is pretty spicy, and our clientele seem to like that. Our cooks make a housemade salsa to go with the Mexican entrées that is very spicy as well.”

At Intermountain Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, Foodservice Director Laura Watson says she doesn’t have any strong ethnic preferences among her hospital’s customers. So, she uses the cafeteria for a monthly geography lesson, featuring different types of cuisine each month.

2010 Menu Development Survey chart trans fats“The total menu will feature entrées, sides, salads, sandwiches and desserts from that region,” she explains. “The most popular have been Central and South America, Polynesian and Italian.”

Large urban areas, particularly in the Northeast, attract a wide variety of ethnicities, which often means operators must offer menus with many influences. For example, Beth Yesford, foodservice director for Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C., says her menus offer “Spanish, Caribbean, Jamaican, Chinese and Indian—in line with the many different cultures represented in our hospital.” At Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, Foodservice Director Tom Cooley notes that Caribbean cuisine offers him flexibility in several ways to satisfy his hospital’s diverse employee base.

“We have an inner-city hospital mix of white, black and Hispanic working here,” Cooley says. “Caribbean lets us mix soul, seafood and Spanish influences, which seems to work for a lot of our customers. It also works for pork, which usually does not go over well with blacks and Muslims. But jerk and curry-style pork sells well, as do our Cuban sandwiches.”

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