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Healthcare Foodservice – Part One

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Trends in Healthcare Foodservice, Part One: Service

How has COVID affected healthcare foodservice?

Hi there, I’m Carri Sullens and I’m an associate principal here at Webb Foodservice Design in Anaheim, California. With the pandemic continuing onward, it’s a good time to take a moment to reflect on how healthcare foodservice has changed in the last 12 months. We hope to showcase the most prominent trends in the hopes that you can discover how new ideas can be put into practice in your own operations.

As foodservice project planners, we’ve been watching several trends that have been on the rise during the pandemic in terms of food safety and of the way that your operations are changing.

New Marketplaces

One of the greatest trends that we saw in healthcare this last year was the development of a new marketplace. This came out of foodservice operators really wanting to serve the staff that was on the front lines and who were fighting the battle for us. Operators created little marketplaces, grab-and-go grocery stores that could provide milk, bread, eggs – essentials for these essential workers. And the great thing is that it looks like that trend is going to continue into the future so that folks who are working these crazy hours don’t have to make that extra stop on the way home. So in part of our future retail café design, we’re trying to incorporate these stations in and near the café.

Self-Service

One of the biggest trends that we’ve seen is a move away from self-service. We know everyone likes to make their own salad at a salad bar or get their own beverage or add their own condiments to the coffee, but in terms of food safety that was a really big issue during COVID. So we’ve seen a lot of the foodservice – especially retail and front-of-house operations – go away from self-service and create flexible platforms where operators can serve a lot of the food and beverages as opposed to self-service. But with the addition of adjustable sneeze guards and other modifications, they’re able to keep that station flexible so that in the future when we’re out of the pandemic, we can go back to normal self-service.

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During the pandemic, at least here in California, there was no café service allowed. So as these operations start to open, we’re seeing changes in terms of the self-service salad bars, self-service beverages being maintained. People are not feeling confident yet because of the Delta variant and because of just having gone through wearing a mask for a year. They’re just not feeling great with self-service, sharing utensils, etc. So I can see this projecting for a bit longer.

I think another great thing that we can take out of our experiences with COVID is the hand sanitizing stations or even hand sinks being installed in café dining rooms. There’s a higher awareness of spreading germs both during pandemic and not during pandemic.

Fresh Food Vending

Prior to COVID, we did see a trend in fresh food vending machines. These things are pretty cool: instead of grabbing a Coke or your candy bar or whatever in a vending machine, you can actually choose salads, fresh-made wraps, fresh-made sandwiches. These are often provided by the operators in the back-of-house, dietary kitchen, and are filled into vending machines so that you have 24/7 healthy options instead of what we’re used to in terms of typical vending options.

Scratch-made Food

It’s not even a trend, it’s just something I think is really cool. I worked with one operator who was super passionate about healthy food in terms of wellness and food as medicine, and that’s something that I’m super passionate about, too. They were able to feed the entire hospital (it was a fairly good-sized hospital) 100% from scratch cooking. This chef was just super passionate about getting this food out to everyone. And not only to the patients, but also to the staff and the visitors of the café. In terms of equipment layout of the kitchen, it’s not that different to plan a kitchen that’s for all-scratch cooking. There may be additional prep equipment required, but in terms of the cook line, that sort of thing, it’s pretty much the same.

Thanks for reading!

And stay tuned, in our next blog post I cover how technology has changed through the pandemic. If you’ve enjoyed this post, don’t forget to subscribe to our blog feed to make sure you don’t miss out on any content that we produce here at Webb!

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