2016 Healthcare Census: Hospitals raise their game

From retail to cooking demos, hospital foodservice operators are serving more customers—and in more creative ways than ever.

Survey snapshot

184—total number of hospitals surveyed

hospital census overview chart

Annual food and beverage purchases

Less than $200,00020%
$1 million-$4,999,99934%
$5 million or more13%


Feeding more patients

Half of hospitals are feeding more patients today than they have in the past; overall only 15 percent reported serving fewer patient meals.

Hospitals in the Northeast and South continue to serve the most patients daily (364 and 282 respectively), followed by the West (224 daily meals) and Midwest (161 meals).

237—Average number of patients fed daily

Annual food and beverage purchasesAverage patients fed daily
Less than $200,00039
$1 million-$4,999,999307
$5 million or more695

In the past two years, how has your patient meal count changed?

Annual food and beverage purchasesIncreasedDecreasedStayed at home
Less than $200,00030%24%46%
$1 million-$4,999,99953%15%32%
$5 million or more83%4%12%

16%—Overall, hospitals’ patient meal counts rose by an average of 16 percent. Operators with less than $200,000 in annual F&B purchases saw the biggest jump (23 percent) in patient meal counts.


Room service

Room service continues to rise, with slightly more operators offering on-demand meals compared to last year. The larger the hospital, the more likely it is to offer room service—67 percent of operators with F&B purchases of $5 million or more offer it, compared to 27 percent of hospitals with purchases less than $200,000.

Does your operation offer on-demand room service for patients?

room service pie chart

Retail takeover

The vast majority of hospitals (86 percent) offer both retail and patient meals, with retail meals making up the bulk of the business.

retail pie chart

69%—Percentage who say their retail business has grown in the past two years

20%—Average percent increase in retail transactions/meal counts

Hospitals with budgets of $5 million or more are most likely to report a bump in retail business: 96 percent of them say their retail transactions are up, compared to 52 percent of hospitals with less than $200,000 in purchases.

Expect growth at lunch

Generally, every hospital in our survey doing retail business provides lunch in its cafeteria or dining areas. And overall, 60 percent expect that afternoon daypart to grow in the next two years. That said, big-budget hospitals are banking on breakfast, being more likely to predict growth in a.m. transactions compared to other operators.

Offer mealpart in cafeteria/dining areas

 All$200K or less$200K-$499,999$500K-$999,999$1M-$4,999,999$5M or more
Late night34%13%N/AN/A17%8%22%7%50%18%70%26%
No growthN/A19%N/A31%N/A12%N/A37%N/A11%N/A13%
 = offer mealpart in cafeteria/dining areas
 = predict growth in next 2 years


Branching out

Patient rooms and cafeterias aren’t the only venues where hospital operators serve food. Some other services offered:

62%Cooking demos, nutrition-education programs or other community engagement services
33%Stand-alone coffee kiosk
9%In-house full-service restaurant
4%Food truck

Menu trends

It appears some practical factors are driving menu changes and trends at hospitals. Almost half of hospital operators say they’ve made upgrades or changes to their menus as a result of HCAHPS surveys. Some 70 percent of hospitals with big budgets ($5 million or more) expect to source more local foods, versus 34 percent of those with budgets under $200,000. And operators with less than $500,000 in annual F&B purchases are more likely to increase their scratch cooking, perhaps as a way of saving money. 

menu trends map

A closer look at local

On average, 13 percent of hospital operators’ food purchases are locally sourced; that number rises to 23 percent of purchases at hospitals with the largest budgets. Operators in the Midwest are the ones most likely to source produce and meats locally; local seafood is most likely to be served by operators in the West; and Northeast hospitals source the most dairy items. 

Which foods are you sourcing locally?

35%Baked goods




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