5 innovative ideas happening in healthcare foodservice

mediterranean salad

From Bush’s Best®.

From off-premise to menus to community outreach, healthcare foodservice directors are kicking things up a notch in 2018. Here’s a peek at several innovative takes on trends that are happening right now in healthcare dining centers.

Maximizing food sales without needing more space

Many healthcare foodservice programs are implementing off-site dining options such as delivery or pickup. This helps accommodate increases in patronage without needing additional space, and offers guests added convenience and flexibility. It also ensures that busy staffers can get a quick meal in even if they don’t have time to sit down for a break.

In a similar vein, catering options are popping up at healthcare facilities. After all, with kitchen operations onsite, it only makes sense to use them for meetings, on-site conferences, lunch gatherings and more. At University of Iowa Health Care in Iowa City, Iowa, catering options include delivery service throughout the UIHC and College of Medicine complex, as well as staffed service (serving, etc.) in all Food and Nutrition Services conference rooms.

Innovating with staff feeding options

Healthcare dining facilities cater to many different diners, including guests of patients and visitors to the facility as well as staff. While guests and visitors might seek out comfort foods or snacks, staff dining needs are much different. Offering better-for-you options is crucial for those working long hours who want to eat healthfully, and menuing unexpected items or LTOs can help to generate staff excitement and keep them dining on campus.

Additionally, staff meal plans are a great way to boost revenue while offering employees an affordable rate for dining. With prepaid meal plan cards, staff can dine when they have the chance to and enjoy a lower price than they’d pay without the plan.

Offering up grab-and-go

To meet the need of convenience-seeking diners, grab-and-go options are growing on healthcare campuses. Available options have shifted from classics such as yogurt or protein bars to full-fledged meals such as veggie burritos that can be warmed up in a toaster oven or microwave, pre-topped salads with dressing on the side, customizable sandwiches and much more.

These offerings have expanded to match regional favorites, better-for-you cravings and portability needs. At The Market at Beatrix—an operation connected to Chicago’s Northwestern Hospital—visitors and staff alike can pick up options including chef-prepared salads, premium desserts and seasonal dishes.

Menuing global-inspired cuisine

As in other foodservice segments, an increasing number of globally inspired options are appearing in healthcare cafeterias. Paired with the continuing interest in plant-based menus that are trending across the country, healthcare dining programs are menuing more and more produce-forward ethnic options, from poke bowls to falafel to shakshuka.

The addition of sauce and condiment bars can help flavor dishes such as stir fries, and serving up grains and veggie bowls with a protein and allowing guest to choose their own flavorings can be a big hit, especially since many healthcare diners seek out customizable dishes.

Community outreach and education programs

Finally, several healthcare establishments are implementing community outreach programs to create and maintain strong relationships among the community. Wellness workshops are popular ways to do so when it comes to healthcare, and wellness and nutrition programs benefit many communities.

In 2017, Citizens Memorial Hospital in Bolivar, Missouri offered free monthly “Healthy Balance” cooking classes taught by a CMH registered dietician that focused on healthier eating habits. The classes provided information and tips, samples of food prepared, recipe packets with nutrition analysis and more.

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