Mealtime traffic in hospital kitchens can be hectic. The sheer volume of orders alone can be daunting, but health care food service also has to consider the possible medical conditions and thereby, dietary concerns of patients. Institutions looking to increase efficiency in the kitchens should consider implementing pod systems.
Understanding the concept
According to Food Service Director, pod systems are essentially shortened tray lines. Rather than running every dish through one line, a pod system allows a number of dishes through a shorter line in a smaller contained pod, which can assemble and, therefore, deliver meals at a faster rate. The group noted that each pod has a dedicated team and that some hospitals have a system where each pod serves a different floor or section of the institution.
Implementing the system
If your hospital is considering using a pod, first assess how many teams you can form. FSD noted that WakeMed Health and Hospitals used a three-person pod system, where one server worked with two hosts or hostesses. The host or hostess placed the mat and cold condiments onto the tray while the server placed the hot items. As each tray is assembled, the host or hostess place the completed meal on the cart. Once the cart is filled and on its way, the other host or hostess begins the process again.
You may want to start with a single pod first. Assign a small group of people who work well together to this new system. Additionally, you’ll have to think about the pod shape. FSD stated that some hospitals used a T-shape, whereas other preferred a C-shape. Work with your kitchen staff to figure out which configuration makes the best use of available space and maximizes efficiency.
Reaping the benefits
The successful implementation of a pod system can increase patient satisfaction. By having meals provided quickly, patients will be able to enjoy their dishes sooner. You can even think about incorporating specialized pods that cater to diabetics or elderly patients. That way, no ingredients that would compromise the nutrition of the meals would have a chance of making it onto the dish. This can help improve cross-contamination precautions in the kitchen.
Health care food services must always think of new ways to increase efficiency without sacrificing service. A pod system can be a simple experiment that may bring about many benefits.