Todd Foutty (rhymes with "howdy"), dir. of food operations at 750-bed MetroHealth Medical Ctr. in Cleveland, oversees—among other responsibilities—the implementation of a sophisticated cook-chill production and food delivery system that he initiated as part of a $3.5 million renovation begun in 1998. Today, the system produces high-quality meals for patient, retail and catering for the entire MetroHealth System, including off-site facilities.
"There are a lot of cook-chill production facilities in the country, but the bigger and more unique piece is the advanced meal delivery," Foutty points out. "We actually cold-plate all patient hospital trays in a temperature-controlled environment of 55°F-58°F.
"Since the kitchen in our 50-year-old facility is not air-conditioned, we felt the best thing for food safety was to plate our patient trays in a separate refrigerated area away from all other production areas. When producing 2,100 trays in an 8-hr. period, we want employees to stay focused," Foutty points out.
Effortless HMR: Thanks to cook-chill production, providing home meal replacement selections—including chilled soups and meals that customers can reheat at home—to the tune of $1,200 per-week in sales is almost effortless. From a three-door refrigerator/freezer in the cafeteria, commercial frozen products such as pre-cooked Tyson chicken, pints of Ben & Jerry's ice cream and half-gallons of milk, are available alongside the department's own cook-chill items.
"Commercially frozen stuff is available all day with our cold-plated items put out in limited quantities about lunchtime. We offer pints of soup, chili, etc. We went with individual portions since larger sizes didn't go well," he explains.
Occasionally, cook-chill items such as rotisserie turkey, soups, sauces, mashed potatoes, etc., are pulled for use in catering. Overall, catering revenues in the MetroHealth System have increased 56% over last year since Foutty and his team have improved the presentation and made the ordering process more user-friendly.
Continuity in catering: "We needed to take the thought process out of planning an event, so we streamlined the steps. Next, we'll put menus and ordering forms on our Intranet. I believe we can do as good or better a job than any caterer since I have six members of my management team with hotel/restaurant backgrounds. It's a team I hired during my first two years and I believe the key to success here is continuity of management."
Today, FTEs have been reduced by 50 to 60 system-wide—now there are 90. And food waste is down as a result of controlled food temperatures, for a savings of $1.2 million annually since the system forces efficiencies in both food and labor. To Foutty's credit, the systems were accepted without issue by union workers and were, in fact, backed by the full support of union leaders and MetroHealth management. He also achieved product cost reductions by forming a local purchasing standards organization.
"I truly believe our success here has been achieved by getting support from the top down so we could achieve our projects from the bottom up," he asserts.