Why Quality Foodservice Is The Key to The Outstanding Hospital Experience

In 2016, the San Francisco General Hospital And Trauma Center received a $100,000 grant from its foundation. The purpose? To upgrade the existing cafeteria facilities. The previous year, a mere 22% of patients rated the hospital’s food as “excellent”—and these patients account for 1,500 meals served per day, adding up to an enormous amount of mediocre food. In response, the hospital took steps to hire a new executive chef, increase the number of seasonal offerings on the menu, and made plans to open a farmers market on the cafeteria’s patio.

Food and beverage always matters, and the hospital’s cafeteria is no exception. Indeed, a hospital cafeteria may find there is significant opportunity to wow customers because their expectations are already tempered—because hospital food has a historically low reputation.

Comfort Food

Hospitals are at a disadvantage—they are mostly populated by persons experiencing a health crisis, those supporting them, and those treating them. In many cases, it can be a stressful place to be. A cafeteria experience can make a high-stress environment better or worse, depending on its food and beverage quality, variety and pricing, the warmth of its staff, décor, and a myriad of other factors. However, visiting the cafeteria can provide a feeling of comfort.

Patients—A Hospital’s Bread And Butter

The life of a hospital patient has been compromised in some way—otherwise, she wouldn’t be there—and this person’s experience is of paramount importance to the hospital, which is also a business with a strong interest in customer satisfaction. Since the Affordable Care Act has changed the face of the healthcare system, prospective patients have realized they do have a choice in where they seek care, and a hospital serving fresh, local food—sometimes even created by a professional chef—is the kind of experience that boosts customer satisfaction ratings.

Fouquier Hospital in Warrenton, VA, has the distinction of serving regular clientele who aren’t at the hospital for any health-related matter—just the delicious food. The company running the restaurant sees their investment in high quality food and beverage as an investment in patients— “If [they] eat better, they'll feel better and leave the hospital quicker.”

Family And Friends’ Headquarters

A patient’s family and friends will eventually make their way to the cafeteria for any of a dozen reasons—they are waiting while a patient undergoes an operation or recovers from one; they need a change of scene; they prefer a conversation in a more relaxed environment; and, of course, they are simply hungry or thirsty. It is these visitors a hospital cafeteria should seek to impress, because they are likely to form a lasting impression. Sitting down to eat food together has been shown to bring people closer—just the recipe for a group of anxious family members.

Staff—The Daily Meal

Some of the most regular users of the hospital cafeteria are the staff, and the quality of the food and beverages has a profound effect on their performance. Junk food makes for sluggishness and lack of focus. Medical staff often meets in the cafeteria, which can either be a relaxing experience or a stressful one. Unlike patients and visitors, staff is likely visiting the cafeteria a regular basis. All this adds up to lots of opportunity to impress the hospital team on a regular basis—adding to nutritional benefits, hospital reputation, and recruiting opportunities. Food, that most basic of needs, will end up affecting everyone in the hospital in one way or another—and the better it is, the more successful that hospital will be.