What’s in a name?

Names and spellings do matter to most in the industry.

Several years ago, operators looking to upgrade the quality—certainly the perception—of hospital foodservice came up with the notion of offering patients food at almost any time of day. Instead of passing our paper menus a day or more in advance and then delivering pre-selected meals at set times each day, these hospitals would treat patients like they were in a hotel. They would have the option of calling down to the foodservice department and ordering their meals at almost any time of day from a restaurant-style menu. It would be just like hotel room service.

The idea caught on and the name, of course, stuck. It certainly connoted high-quality food and a pampered guest—who doesn’t enjoy ordering food without ever having to leave comfortable surroundings? It was a great marketing tool for hospitals, especially those that could afford to offer it throughout the facility.

But was it accurate? Maybe, maybe not, but who cared?

Well, at least a few hospital foodservice directors did care. That was made clear to me several months ago when we conducted a focus group of operators to find out what they thought of our annual hospital census questionnaire. During the course of the teleconference, one director questioned the use of “room service.” She noted, quite correctly, that in the purest sense patient foodservice IS room service.

What she suggested in its place was a term that accurately describes what hospitals are really trying to do: offer meals “on demand.”

I’ve thought off and on for the past few months about that comment, as we went through several changes of our own here at FoodService Director. The conversation came back to me this week while I was editing Associate Editor Becky Schilling’s fine piece on Nancy Geffre, our Foodservice Director of the Month for September. Nancy’s hospital, in Sioux Falls, S.D., has a room service program.

So, we’ve decided to take this opportunity to bring a little more accuracy to the industry. Beginning with the September issue of FSD, we will refer to hospital room service programs by the term “on-demand.” We will follow it up with a qualifier such as “also called room service.” We’ll see what kind of feedback we get from industry professionals before making it permanent.

So we’d love to hear from you. Is “on-demand” an acceptable term for patient room service, or are we making something out of nothing? Or, do you agree that room service isn’t right, but there is a better term than “on demand?”

This is a chance to strike a blow for accuracy, or to take us to task for being hypersensitive. We’ll take the strongest argument and champion it to the industry at large.

While you’re at it, if you have a better idea than “non-commercial” or “on-site,” I’d love to hear it.

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