Technology & Equipment

How technology is changing healthcare foodservice

Photograph: Shutterstock

Over the past decade, apps have become an integral part of everyday life, from messaging and social networking to how we track information and issue payments. That’s because the majority of Americans—81%, according to a Pew Research Center survey—now own a smartphone.

In an app-based world, consumers expect to have the ability to have food when they want, where they want. It’s a trend that’s gained momentum and is helping shape the modern hospital network for managed foodservice facilities including hospital cafeterias. More than half of consumers have used a restaurant’s app or website to order food in the last year, according to Technomic’s recent 2019 State of Off-Premise report, and hospital foodservice operations have taken notice, offering their own apps with the same services.

Onsite ease

Hospitals like UC San Diego Health are leading the way with this type of innovation, transforming their hospital retail operations and the way staff are ordering meals. Hospital staff, typically granted only a half hour for their lunch breaks, are always on the lookout for ways to make the most of their mealtime as a respite from their busy jobs. They certainly don’t want to use too much of that time standing in long lines at on-site cafes. At UC San Diego Health, the dining program introduced the ability for employees to load cash onto their badge as a form a payment. “Credit card transactions typically take up to 17 seconds to process,” says Jill Martin, Assistant Director, Nutrition Services, “while paying with their badge is instant, and every second counts when they’re on their lunch break.” This can boost loyalty from these guests, since 80% of consumers say speed of service creates value, according to Technomic’s 2019Value & Pricing Consumer TrendReport.

UC San Diego staff can also use a specified app called GET to pre-order and pre-pay for food from the hospital campus cafe and have it ready at a dedicated pick-up spot in the cafeteria at a selected time. “Again, staff has only 30 minutes for lunch, so they want to get in and get out,” says Martin.

Such efficiency also makes it less desirable to go offsite for a meal. “Parking here is an issue,” says Martin. “And if they can walk over and pick up their order on campus, they won’t lose their parking spot or waste part of their lunch break looking for a new one.”

“GET gives employees the ability to pre-order so they can have their lunch ready for pick-up or they can do catering and delivery for their floor,” says Robert Wakelee, product manager at CBORD. “In the experience of the employee, they anticipate being able to use a mobile app and have the food when they want it, where they want it. GET allows them to avoid waiting in line, use their badge and use payroll deduction – all through that one employee app experience. They can also see their spending history for the payroll deduction from that pay period as well as their past orders to quickly reorder.”

Improved room service

Consumers’ expectation to order using mobile devices is also changing room service in hospitals. UC San Diego recently moved from paper menus to a room service attendant helping patients place meal orders via a tablet. “Not only can digital menus allow us to offer a more extensive menus than what we could fit on paper, there is less chance for human error in taking the order,” says Martin. “The patients’ dietary restrictions are also built into the system, so they are only shown meal choices that are in accordance with what the dieticians outline for their best health outcome.”

UC San Diego, which has also employed a tray monitoring system to continuously track the whereabouts of trays going to or coming from patients, has seen their patient satisfaction scores go from the low 40th percentile to 97% since adding tech-based food services.

“It’s all about patient outcomes,” says Sami Takieddine, director, platform operations & patron engagement off-premise commerce expert at CBORD. “So much of what is done in the hospital is up to somebody else—patients are woken up at 3 a.m. to get medicine. We’ve seen that even the smallest thing—such as having a little bit of control over what they eat—means they’ll have a much better experience in the hospital and that leads to better outcomes for the patient.”

With technology solutions changing the landscape of healthcare foodservice, more and more dining operations are starting to embrace this change incorporating touchscreen point-of-sale terminals to on-demand mobile ordering to accommodate its staff. Learn more about GET and other CBORD solutions today at

This post is sponsored by CBORD

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