There’s a common expectation when dining out: the food is going to taste great. What makes it taste even better is the presentation of the food, with all the expected flair. The cherry on top is the service accompanying the meal, with the wait staff providing order accuracy, courteous delivery, and a genuine interest in giving a great dining experience.
In the past, these characteristics were rarely applied to hospital foodservice. Room service and enhanced bedside ordering has contributed positive change to hospital meals, in terms of quality, presentation, and service. For long-term care, residents enjoy making selections from a variety of menu options, special meal service events, and sharing their meals with other residents.
Professional chefs bring high quality food preparation expertise to the kitchen, and concierges/hostesses bring a “front of the house” approach to personally tending to every patient. Delivering that level of service excellence requires a shift in staffing paradigms, often costly to the department. Luckily, the cost can be offset by a decrease in late trays and food waste, and an increase in patient/resident satisfaction.
Then. Came. Covid-19.
The impact on staffing and hospital foodservice excellence has become threatened, considering viral exposures, and required quarantining protocols. Hospitals and long-term care facilities test staff frequently (often daily), with foodservice departments reporting 25 – 30% of their staff out on leave at any given time. Back-up and/or temporary staff isn’t always available, resulting in management assuming the roles of their team.
Significant challenges, for sure. However, all is not lost! I interviewed several hospitals and was truly impressed with their creative approaches to retain service excellence. From adding featured menu items, changing dining venues when possible, and hosting special meal events, the patient/resident felt uplifted during this difficult time.
What about the staff – how do we keep them motivated? They are working double and split shifts, training temporary staff, and management is filling in continuously. It’s good to know that foodservice departments are rewarding their teams – with incentives (i.e.: special meals, gift cards, bonuses), and by adding fun in the workday (i.e.: contests, raffles, dress-down days).
Isn’t it wonderful when we remember to thank those who carry extra burdens?