A group of healthcare foodservice operators participated in a discussion on menu makeovers. Julie Jones, nutrition services director at Ohio State University Medical Center discussed the institution's “struggle with patient foodservice” at the Dodd Rehabilitation Hospital. “We decided that all items on the menu needed to be things 80 percent of customers would select, and they all had to be available in pureed form as well so that patients with swallowing difficulties would not be restricted from the full selection,” she said.
Kelly Cook, executive chef/production manager at Harris Methodist Hospital Southwest in Dallas, talked about transitioning to a room service program at his facility. “It's a different mindset to process room service meals than traditional meals,” he said. “The staff tends to be set in its ways. On the other hand, a room service model gives them an opportunity to shine.”
Gary Vorstenbosch of Plano (TX) Presbyterian Hospital, talked about converting to room service. “Try presenting plates instead of having patients choose dishes at the start,” he suggested.
In a Q&A session, the panel was asked how they found chefs for room service. Cook said he looked for “team players” who fit into the culture. Vorstenbosch added that a big draw for chefs is the oppportunity to “make a real difference” in the sense that a good meal for a hospital patient is much more significant to that person than it might be for the typical restaurant patron.
Jones noted that OSUMC's sous chef internship program has produced nine full-time hires, including one with a background at Disney and two others who came from commercial restaurants. She acknowledged the downsides of room service as well: three additional FTEs required and a 20% cost increase to operate the program. Cook said his labor needs haven't changed and the hospital has realized a 10-12% food cost savings. “We were tossing 65 to 75 meals a day before. Now, everyone eats what they order.”