Challenges Facing Healthcare Foodservice Operations

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Day after day, healthcare foodservice workers prepare and serve hundreds, sometimes thousands, of meals as well as keep floors stocked with snacks, beverages, and supplies for patients. Overcoming industry-wide challenges such as staffing shortages and cutting costs is not something that happens overnight, and requires employees to be resourceful, creative, and open-minded despite the stress that comes with working in a busy foodservice environment. Each year healthcare foodservice workers celebrate a week of recognition for the integral role they play in keeping patients and customers well-nourished and healthy. This year that week falls from October 3rd and runs through October 9th. With all the responsibilities on their plates and challenges they overcome, they have certainly earned this week dedicated to honoring their achievements. So what exactly have healthcare foodservice workers been dealing with lately?

Hiring the Right StaffMedical Staff Chatting In Modern Hospital Canteen

Industry-wide staffing shortages have plagued the healthcare industry this year, leaving many foodservice operators in a scheduling pickle. Overworking current staff members leads to burn out and frustration, running the risk of leaving morale at an all-time low. And if that happens? Operators may have an even bigger staffing shortage to deal with. While it would be ideal to hire new staff quickly, that may not be a wise decision. Hiring new staff should be a careful, methodical process since staffing in foodservice is known for high employee turnover. Hiring the right people who will stay with you for awhile is essential or you’ll find yourself right back where you started; short on quality, dedicated people.

Facility Consolidation

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In recent years, the healthcare industry has seen the trend of consolidating to save on costs resulting in individual entities becoming parts of bigger healthcare systems. Foodservice operators who were once responsible for managing one facility are now faced with managing multiple units. Consolidation effects healthcare foodservice operations in a number of ways, including:

  • Interruption of systems and processes
  • Data from separate facilities can’t be combined upon consolidation
  • Menus require reevaluation based on new demographics
  • Culture shock becomes evident among foodservice staff

Disrupting the equilibrium of an operation causes frustrations for foodservice operators and staff, requiring a great deal of attention to continue to run smoothly while going through a transformation of this scale.

Food Trends

Healthcare foodservice operators have a wide range of customers to satisfy – patients, visitors, and employees of all ages and backgrounds, all with unique palates. Keeping diners happy means offering enough options to please everyone while keeping costs and food waste down. Recent food trends should be taken into account when revamping offerings, creating new menus, or promoting limited time offers.

Healthy items made from local ingredients continue to be in demand along with the increased demand for ethnic flavors and unique tastes. Millennials crave exotic foods, dishes with some spice, and foods that diminish their carbon footprint (think local, organic, and sustainable.) Healthcare patients staying in this environment need comfort food to help them feel more at home and remain comfortable during their stay. Employees choosing to eat at your facilities on their break need intriguing options and variety if you want them to choose your dining options over running out quickly to grab fast food somewhere. Keeping menus interesting and up-to-date is essential to developing and maintaining a loyal customer base.

Overcoming The Obstacles

Utilizing technology in healthcare foodservice can help overcome many of the challenges facing operators, but somehow keeps ending up on the back burner due to time constraints or hesitance. But, take a quick second to imagine going from hand-written orders, unorganized paper invoices, and a phone that rings non-stop to an organized desk with a computer that stores that information for you – everything from a customer’s e-mail address to in-depth back of house reporting functionality. CaterTrax’s online foodservice management system is like the “silent employee” you’ve always dreamed of and helps overcome many challenges presently facing the healthcare foodservice industry. So why keep putting it off?

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The reality is that turnover will always be an issue for the foodservice industry, so newly hired staff should be trained in detail about the do’s and don’ts of serving, how to manage floor stock stations, processes that should always be followed, and how to utilize programs and technology that will aid them in their jobs. Proper training increases the chance that employees will want to continue working for you so communicate expectations from the beginning and create a detailed training program. Stephanie Pope, General Manager and CaterTrax client since 2010 shared that “CaterTrax is so easy to use and easy for my staff to learn. I would suggest for everyone to get it.” The TRAX Platform is an easy-to-use, simple-to-manage software that offsets the stress of high employee turnover and time constraints that come with constantly training new staff.

Consolidating healthcare facilities leaves foodservice operators feeling overwhelmed after going from managing a single location, to an entire healthcare systems’ foodservice operation. Managing this volume of sales data, customer information, inventory, and multiple menus requires the support of a platform with scalable capabilities. Add ever-changing food trends hitting the foodservice industry and the capability to adjust menu offerings quickly becomes a necessity. CaterTrax supports large multi-units across North America, offering each location a customized solution that rolls up key corporate-wide data, so operators won’t have to utilize multiple, disparate systems to manage their operations. With the TRAX Platform, menus can be customized or standardized across a fleet of sites as determined by the needs of each operation.

HealthcareFoodserviceWorkersWeekLogoRunning a successful foodservice operation in the healthcare industry evolves each day and is supported by the dedicated staff in the industry who constantly address and overcome any obstacles that present themselves. Happy Healthcare Foodservice Workers Week to the men and women keeping patients and customers well-nourished, healthy, and happy. You’ve earned it!

Interested in learning more about the TRAX Platform and how CaterTrax can support your healthcare foodservice operation? Contact us to book a demo today!

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