Becky Hassinger: Elevating the Experience
BECKY HASSINGER has remade foodservices at the UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI HEALTH CARE by:
- Renovating the system’s main retail locations to improve service and traffic flow and to create a comfortable dining environment
- Focusing on healthier eating by removing fryers and using better-for-you applications
- Implementing room service, which increased patient satisfaction
- Revamping the patient menu to include a staple of favorites and a rotating selection of seasonal specials
When Essentials opened, however, not everyone was thrilled with the changes. The fryer was removed, along with the all-you-can-eat buffet. Hassinger says people were hesitant to dine in Essentials because of the new push toward healthier items. “There were staff who were angry that we took away the all-you-can-eat buffet,” she says. “Becky isn’t scared to take on some things that could be controversial,”
Higginbotham says about the decision to remove the fryer. “She’s done a good job at coming up with better-for-you options for fried foods, like using the charbroiler. We met some resistance early on when we opened Essentials. Becky quickly won people over with the quality of food.”
After a somewhat slow start, daily transactions at Essentials have increased 88% over its predecessor.
Oasis: The next retail location to see an overhaul was The 404 Diner, in the Women’s & Children’s Hospital. The retail space was gutted and reopened earlier this year with a new name—Oasis—and a new, more pleasant dining experience for customers. Soft lighting, plants and natural colors also are heavily prominent in Oasis. Transactions have increased 5% since Oasis opened in June.
Traffic flow had been a problem at The 404 Diner. During the renovation, the space was reconfigured to better accommodate diners. The location features four stations: Sizzle (charbroiler and flat-top griddle for burgers and sandwiches made to order); Creations (stir-fry, rice bowls, noodle bowls and entrée salads); Homestyle (comfort foods like meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans); and Cabana (pizza, sandwiches, soup and Smoothies).
During slower times, at night and on weekends, Cabana turns into a one-station show, with all food coming from this area. “There is so much variety there, and we can save on labor and not have to staff all of these stations during our slow periods,” Hassinger says.
The fryer was eliminated from what was to become Oasis, and it also got the heave-ho during a mini renovation completed this year in the main hospital’s other retail location, The Grill Downstairs.
“This renovation was what our engineering department likes to call a ‘blue sky’ project. It’s something that falls out of the blue sky,” Hassinger says. Specifically, engineers discovered there was a problem with the exhaust hood and ductwork, which would require closing down a section of the eatery and replacing the exhaust system.
Hassinger used this as an opportunity to make some other changes at The Grill Downstairs. Once again, she removed the fryer, replacing it with a combi oven and charbroiler. She also repositioned the equipment so that staff would no longer have to turn their backs to customers while taking and making their orders. Since reopening in August, transactions in The Grill Downstairs have increased 2%.
With all the renovations on the retail side in the past few years, it should come as no surprise that Hassinger says the opening of these projects is one of her most rewarding moments on the job. “I thoroughly enjoy all the renovation projects in the retail area,” she says. “I like doing anything I can to improve services for our patients, visitors and staff.”
Higginbotham says that being able to create changes is one of Hassinger’s greatest strengths. “She is very good at having a concept in her head and being able to make that concept come alive, not just on paper but in reality,” he says. “She is very hands-on [during these projects]. Becky is always trying to make things better. She’s always trying to be innovative. She’s not one to let problems overtake her. She tries to figure out what’s coming down the road and figures out how to prepare for that.”
Patient satisfaction: One of the areas Higginbotham says his foodservice director has shown ingenuity is in patient service. Hassinger understood early on the potential of room service, offering it for new mothers in 2003. By 2008, every patient in the system was being served via room service. Since starting room service, patient satisfaction has improved from the 27th percentile to the 77th percentile at University Hospital and 99th percentile at Women’s & Children’s.
In January, Hassinger decided to revamp the patient menu. The popular items were kept and an 11-day rotating daily specials menu was added to give patients more variety. The daily specials menu changes with the season. Some items offered on that special menu include lemon dill salmon with vegetable orzo pasta and lemon pepper tilapia served with seasonal roasted vegetables.
In keeping with her healthy initiatives on the retail side, Hassinger says she plans to remove fryers from the patient food prep area soon.