Five Questions for: Jack Lawless

Jack Lawless, Five Questions, Truman Medical CenterAt Truman Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo., a new concept named Blossom on 3rd that blends retail and patient services. This concept combines a small production kitchen on the patient floor with a retail operation where patients, staff and visitors can dine. Jack Lawless, division president for Morrison, Truman’s food management company and developer of Blossom, spoke to FSD about the future of the concept.

How does the Blossom on 3rd program work?

Shortly after patients are admitted to their rooms, the patients are greeted by the Blossom staff. They explain the program and tell the patients that they have choices in meals. They can call down to order, have a steward take their order or they can go down and dine in the café as long as the doctor says that is OK. The hours are from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. The communication between the department and medical records is all seamless. The stewards carry notepads with them and they can get updates on patient diets. It’s an any-time menu so they can get breakfast for dinner or anything they want at any time.

The Blossom team visits the patients throughout the day to take the patients’ food orders. A tray ticket prints out immediately in the production part of Blossom and the food will begin to be prepared. When the stewards get back to the production part of Blossom, they assemble the cold ingredients. In the production kitchen, they have TurboChef ovens, panini presses and microwave ovens that allow us to take and finish off the meals that are semi-prepared down in the main kitchen. We finish them off using our Flavors 450 program. The menu for Blossom on 3rd is a very different menu than the other patient menu for the rest of the hospital. We are trying to create a different venue. It’s like destination dining without having to leave the building.

What is the retail part of Blossom like?

Blossom is open to staff, visitors and patients for dining. Part of the strategy for us is to reach different audiences who are not participating in our retail programs to begin with. We hear that a lot of staff don’t have time to come down to the cafeteria, and that’s part of the benefit with Blossom because we can bring the experience closer to them.

We began patient services in December of 2009 and we started the retail services in February of 2010. If a patient wants to dine at Blossom they can order beforehand or they can order when they get there. Instead of using the cash register, patient orders are entered on the notebook. The retail menu is the same as the patient menu for Blossom. I think that speaks to how cool the menu is at Blossom.

So far we are pretty pleased with the sales we are getting back from the area. There is a small seating area. It accommodates around 14 people. Right now, people are mostly taking food to go from Blossom. I have talked with some patients who eat at the bistro at Blossom. It means so much to the patients to be able to get out of bed to get a meal like a normal human being.

Do you envision this concept replacing a traditional visitor/staff cafeteria?

I think that there will always be a larger central dining space. It may be scaled down, but it will always be there and offer a little more variety. We’re trying to really look at the entire retail experience and really get away from the traditional cafeteria style of dining that’s been so much a part of institutional meal service. We are trying to figure out how that needs to change. So we are spending a lot of time developing new menus and concepts, and Blossom is one of the things that allows us to blend both the patient and retail service and create a new experience.

What are some of the challenges with using a concept like this?

The challenge is always trying to find space on a patient floor. We’ve really trying to search out waiting areas. In the old days that’s where patients and families hung out to visit. With the way healthcare treats people now, those waiting areas, other than in ICU or surgery, are often underutilized. That gives us an opportunity to take some of that space and be able to provide a great service as well as increase our retail sales.

What are some of the benefits of using this concept?

It creates immediately an elevated patient experience. Within three weeks of starting this up, we were able to go from the 80th percentile to the 99th percentile for patient satisfaction. I think the patients clearly understand it’s a different experience and feel. The staff really love it. They have great pride with opening this new concept.