Hospital food is known to lack variety and flavor. For that reason, many patients dread their mealtimes. But when two retirees discovered a cafe inside Aspen Valley Hospital, the truth about hospital food was revealed.
Contrary to popular belief, not all hospitals serve bland food. You can also find cafes and gourmet-quality food in some hospitals. For instance, Aspen Valley Hospital boasts Castle Creek Cafe, a go-to breakfast place for the city’s workers. Everyone can dine in it, even if they have no affiliation with the hospital’s community members. What’s more, the cafe delivers to inmates at a local jail seven days a week.
Castle Creek’s menu includes panko-crusted cod, herbed farro pilaf, and corn soufflé. They’re nothing like the colorless and bland food most patients have eaten in their hospital beds. If a hospital serves such meals, it’s a problem within their facility alone, not the whole healthcare industry.
But even if hospitals can serve delicious food, selling them is still different from selling usual restaurant dishes. Below are the key differences between the two endeavors:
1. Hospital Food Should Be Calorie-deficit
If you run a hospital cafeteria instead of a cafe, you need to serve calorie-deficit meals. This limitation could be the reason hospital food gained a bad reputation. But, again, it’s not the industry’s fault if a hospital doesn’t offer unappetizing, low-calorie meals. Instead, it might be a management problem in the hospital.
According to a report by The Guardian U.K., some hospitals intentionally serve bland food to save costs. This scheme encourages patients and their guardians to buy food from the hospital’s other shops. As a result, the hospital gains more profit because they make more money off those shops than their cafeteria.
Avoid this strategy to allow your hospital cafeteria to gain a positive brand image. While you don’t need to provide a cafe-like menu, give patients, staff, and guardians diverse, healthy options. Create tasty recipes that chronically-ill patients can enjoy. By feeding them delicious meals, you can help them stay motivated to continue their treatments. Furthermore, you won’t tempt them to order fast food and risk their health further.
2. Hospital Food Can Influence the Staff’s Diet
Servers and managers in a restaurant don’t typically eat the restaurant’s dishes. They bring packed meals from home or other shops. On the other hand, hospital staff eats in the cafeteria, like the patients. The cafeteria is the most accessible dining place for them. As such, the food you serve daily can influence the staff’s diet.
According to researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, hospital workers who eat healthy cafeteria food have consumed fewer calories at work over three months. The quality of the calories they consume has also improved. Therefore, the researchers recommend implementing broad healthy eating interventions in hospitals and other large workplaces to tackle obesity and chronic diseases.
3. Serving Food to Patients Requires a Special Process
If a customer wants a restaurant to deliver food, the restaurant will call a delivery rider to serve the food at the customer’s doorstep. This service doesn’t exist in hospitals. Hospital cafes may allow it, especially if another company manages them. After all, hospitals can have Starbucks or other restaurant chains in their facilities.
But when you serve food to the patients’ rooms, you can’t just call a worker to carry the trays and hand them to the patients. Instead, you need to put the trays inside a special food delivery cart. A worker then pushes this cart and takes the food from it when they serve it.
The food cart isn’t like the delivery bags restaurants provide. It is designed to protect the hospital food from contaminants and spilling. Hence, you wouldn’t see a hospital meal tipping to one side or oil seeping through a paper packaging. Hospitals won’t tolerate such unprofessionalism.
4. Hospitals Can Serve Locally-grown Food
Some hospitals serve ready-made food. But it doesn’t mean it’s the industry’s standard. If you want your hospital cafeteria to be cut out from the rest, you can serve locally-grown food. This practice will allow you to incorporate fresher and healthier food into your menu.
Serving locally-grown food is more of a similarity with restaurants than a difference. But in a hospital cafeteria, the recipes will be focused on disease treatment and prevention. Patients are now realizing the connections between chronic conditions and diet. Hence, getting access to healthy and fresh food in the hospital can improve their relationships with their healthcare provider. They may think that the hospital cares for their well-being and the community, thanks to their support for local farms.
Knowing these differences can help you manage your expectations before running a hospital cafe. Your business may not be known for Instagram-able dishes, but you serve the healthiest meals without sacrificing quality, variety, and flavor.