More than ever, institutional catering managers and nutrition directors are always on the look-out for ways to enhance the dining experience. Improving the quality of food, logistical efficiencies, food options and even temperature control – while still making the processes easier for staff to manage – there are clearly many facets to constantly monitor and manage. This is especially truw in the healthcare field where keeping pace with patient demands and shrinking budges pose a particular challenge.
In recent years, Burlodge has been at the forefront of an emerging trend known as Client-Focused Dining, an effort that strives to offer patients more choice regarding their meals. Belt-line production systems and imposed menus, or menus that are determined upon a patient’s admittance to the facility, are being replaced by measures that not only give patients more choice, but also allows them to determine portions at the actual mealtime.
The Power of Choice
It’s thanks to these sorts of positives that more clients are looking to the Client-Focused Dining solution to reverse what for many institutions has been a struggle to serve appetizing, nutritious food to patients in a way that empowers both the servers and the served. Judging from the encouraging comments made by a number of managers in the field, Burlodge has found an audience that welcomes the improvements.
“We wanted to further tailor the choice to the patient – to improve the nutritional intake as well as food preferences,” says Cathy Jenkins from the Grey-Bruce Regional Health Centre. “Now we have two choices at every meal and, what’s more, as we now serve our meals on china, it’s more like a dining experience not an institutional experience.” Typically with this system, patients make their choices and are served within minutes of making their order.
What many Burlodge clients recognize is the immediate impact this system has on improving the dining experience for staff and patients alike. Jane Graul, Director of Clinical Nutrition and Food Services at the Huron-Perth Healthcare Alliance comments, “Temperature control is huge and having the aroma of the food on the floor is a big positive. We can encourage patients to eat right by putting something together that they’ll actually eat, while being able to adjust the portion size is great.” Graul also points out that there has been a noticeable improvement in patient outcomes in terms of managing their weight thanks to this approach.
Jennifer Van Manen of Cambridge Memorial Hospital notes that beyond the efficiency and excellent quality of the Burlodge system, the ergonomic design of the Multigen carts were a deciding factor in changing to this system. “We had an ergonomist on the RFP and we felt the height of the unit, the ease with which we could push it and the wheels were all excellent.” She adds, “When you’re bringing in big equipment you don’t want to put your workers in jeopardy.”
Smoothing the Transition
Admittedly and expectedly, with change comes challenges, and with the prospect of revising how an organization feeds hundreds of people, three times a day, that transition can be overwhelming for some. Fortunately, with excellent logistical planning and Burlodge providing support staff to help clients negotiate the changeover, adopting the Client Focused Dining system has proven remarkably smooth.
For Cathy Jenkins that meant making changes at six different sites. “We had everyone trained within a week,” she says, “and if there was a need to troubleshoot they were always on hand.”
Beyond the obvious improvements in food quality, there are the cultural benefits of bringing staff out of the kitchen and having them mingle with the patients. Director of Nutrition and Food Serivices at Bluewater Health in Sarnia, Liz Dunlop, notes, “There’s been an increase in our job service satisfaction. Previously, staff weren’t able to put a face to the patient, but now they get to know them. In doing that, they try to make the food experience that much more pleasant.”
Graul agrees: “Everyone gets out on the floor – even our chef,” she notes. “In addition to building relations with other departments, there’s also better staff retention among our ranks, too.”
In tandem with that improved satisfaction, catering managers are noticing that the amount of food waste has dropped. What’s more, as Dunlop points out, people are demanding more nutritious options for what’s on the plate. As there’s an undeniable connection between good nutrition and improved health, it’s these sorts of strategies that are contributing to reducing the time patients stay in hospital and the sooner they can recuperate at home.
It’s a common comment throughout all facilities: improved food, better delivery logistics, a more personable approach, enhanced service and a satisfied staff – they all add up to client satisfaction.
As Cathy Jenkins puts it, “The most important thing is that patients get the right choice at the right time at the right temperature.” We couldn’t have said it any better.