Excitement is high at Banner University Medical Center Tucson (BUMC). The hospital is opening a new nine-story, 670,000-square-foot tower packed with cutting-edge healthcare equipment—and a shiny new kitchen, too.
The $400 million project, which includes renovation of the existing 75,000-square-foot facility, is a major boon for the Tucson campus’ foodservice staff. They’ve been working in a 40-year-old kitchen with old and finicky equipment. Now they’ll enjoy shiny new tools, a spacious cafeteria and technology such as tray trackers.
But just 15 minutes away, also in Tucson, Banner University Medical Center’s South campus isn’t getting an exciting new tower. The foodservice staff is still working in less-than-ideal quarters and with old appliances. But they make it work.
“It’s kind of a tale of two hospitals: one that’s state-of-the-art and one that’s a little behind the times in terms of equipment,” says Andrew Farmer, senior culinary and nutrition manager of BUMC South. “But all of us work closely together to do our absolute best with what we have. We have a lot of people from restaurants, and we always say restaurant people can fix anything with duct tape.” Here's how they do it.Nominate an FSO of the Month
Over at the main Tucson campus, the culinary staff isn’t taking their new digs for granted. Their old, ’70s-era facility was challenging. The dish machine broke down constantly, creating a serious backlog. They only had two range-top burners, atop which they sometimes placed grill plates to create a broiler for chicken.
“We got creative with the limited equipment, and we were proud of what we were able to do,” says Heather Danielson, Banner’s culinary and nutrition director for the Tucson campuses. “But we often ran into situations where we couldn’t go as big as we wanted. We didn’t do a lot of hot-meal catering, for example.”
Challenges existed outside the kitchen, too. The cafeteria space was so narrow that people “were practically bouncing off each other,” Danielson says. And to track room service delivery times, staff had to scribble their time-in and time-out in a manual log. Elevator failures and other issues sometimes delayed those delivery times, too.Nominate an FSO of the Month
But the new Tucson tower is even more than Danielson and her team could have hoped for, she says. Not only do they have a brand-new dish machine, but they also have one that power washes, along with a dozen range-top burners, six times the amount as the original facility; eight multifunction combi ovens that can be used as steamers, slow cookers and other cook types; two blast chillers; a dedicated bread oven; a meat smoker; and much more.
A new tray tracker system that links with staff iPads will also drive massive improvements in room service, Danielson believes. The easier, all-digital program will replace those old manual logs, and the staff plans to use it to optimize tray delivery times to help drive patient satisfaction scores. “As a team, we know we haven’t even touched what we’re fully capable of,” Danielson says. “We made do with what we have, but now this [new tower] opens up an unbelievable amount of possibility.”Nominate an FSO of the Month
Reduce and reuse
Down at South campus, Andrew Farmer and his culinary staff are still making do. They are benefiting from the main campus’ renovation and new tower, though, as they’re repurposing discarded appliances, cafeteria seating and other resources in their own kitchen and cafeteria. “It won’t bring it into the 21st century, but at least we’ll get rid of the avocado chairs!” Farmer says.
The South campus’ culinary success shows that operators can achieve great foodservice despite their facility’s limitations, Farmer says. Among recent wins: South, which has 129 beds for behavioral patients, held a pizza demonstration for this population. “They helped roll out the dough and put their ingredients on there, and our staff cooked it,” Farmer says. “We kept hearing from the patients and the nursing staff how much they loved it.”
On the operational side, the BUMC South culinary team also recently streamlined its paperwork-heavy stocking process. They began digitizing the sheets and putting them online, linking the system with iPads “to cut out the middleman,” Farmer says.Nominate an FSO of the Month
Making it work
Their key to succeeding in a challenging physical environment? It’s outside-the-box thinking, Farmer says. “Accept the operation for what it is, and try not to see it as a limitation but rather simply a fact. There is always something you can do to stretch yourself and get creative.”
Perhaps you can’t do the ice cream social with sundaes as your senior leadership team requested, but you can offer novelty bars. A build-your-own sandwich station might require too much manpower on a daily basis, but maybe it could be a weekly special.
“The bottom line is we can never say no in culinary,” Farmer says. “We’ll figure out a way to get it done, even if it requires some tweaks.”Nominate an FSO of the Month
Meet the FSD: Heather Danielson
Culinary and Nutrition Director
Banner University Medical Center Tucson
Q: What is it that makes your team great?
A: We truly care about working in healthcare, which means caring about each other and the patients. You can’t work in a hospital effectively if you don’t have that in you. Everybody drops everything when there’s a patient consideration or concern. You never know who that customer is coming down the hallway. Maybe they were just told they have cancer. We don’t forget that.
Q: What are your goals for the coming year?
A: To get comfortable and live in this new space. My personal goal as the director is to get the word out about our facility and what we do. Sometimes people think, “Oh, they make the food for the cafeteria and the events.” They don’t know about the patient-service part, which includes clinical work in following medical diets.