Hospital food has a reputation for being inedible, unpalatable, or downright terrible, with much of this notoriety duly earned. The responsibility for providing meals in healthcare facilities falls to foodservice companies that not only operate the cafeterias, but cook the entrees, desserts, and snacks for patients, visitors, and hospital staff, as well. These companies are frequently tasked with feeding thousands of people every day, and with so many stomachs to fill, quality sometimes suffers as a result. But with the demands and expectations of consumers evolving, smart foodservice companies are more and more focused on delivering an improved culinary experience with tastier, locally-sourced fare, and alternatives which meet a host of sensitivities.
Modern foodservice companies are becoming more sophisticated, creating gourmet hot meals as well as delicious grab-and-go options. They are putting added emphasis on offering a variety of healthy items to choose from, rather than just sodium-infused cold cut sandwiches. Fresh fruits, lean proteins, and healthy carb dishes are now filling cafeteria counters, then flying off the shelves as eager consumers hungrily devour these more appetizing products.
Locally-sourced produce and meats aren’t just for the home kitchen or boutique restaurant anymore. Foodservice companies today are getting into the farm-to-table game. Due to rising interest in local and sustainable ingredients, 13% of hospitals now provide locally-sourced foods, and 23% percent of all large budget facilities offer local sourcing. A growing number of cafeteria kitchens are pivoting toward scratch cooking by using components that are combined just before serving to create fresher, more delectable cuisine.
Serving meals that provide nutritional value and give consumers a great taste experience has emerged as the trend in healthcare foodservice, and to that end, companies are embracing menus that offer ethnic diversity so that guests can choose from options that are comfortable or adventurous. In addition, they are placing expert chefs on their staffs to guide and train colleagues in preparing flavorful menu items that offer something for everyone.
In order to cater to a vast number of people with different palates and dietary considerations, it is imperative that healthcare facilities provide a wider range of options to satisfy each guest. Freshly prepared meals with locally-sourced ingredients allows foodservice companies to give consumers healthy choices and better knowledge of the additives included to empower those with special sensitivities. This trend is spreading beyond hospitals to school districts, colleges, and anywhere foodservice providers are employed, transforming common cafeteria meals into scrumptious delights.
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 Statistics from a 2016 survey of 184 hospitals by Foodservice Director