locally made crostini. Menus are printed in Spanish, Russian,
English, Braille and large print.
Melanie Yumor, a Sodexo director of food and nutrition
services at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C., has
initiated the room-service approach in three different locations
over the past 10 years. All foods are cooked to order for this
program, termed “At Your Request.” In third-party surveys on
foodservice-specific questions, Yumor has seen patient satisfaction
scores go up 50 or 60 points, she says.
Although there’s a basic room-service menu, Yumor can
customize it depending on hospital location. For example, her
location has panini, and others—perhaps more-Southern locations—might have tamales.
Patients normally order by phone, but for those who have
trouble calling or reading the printed menu, a dietary clerk can
assist right at bedside.
A hospital patient may suffer a loss of appetite because of
medication or a condition, so “simple foods, displayed appropriately,
become satisfying,” Yumor says. Fresh fruit plate with cottage
cheese, displayed in a clear dome, is popular. “We don’t mix our
fruits ahead of time, so they don’t bleed on each other,” she notes.
Also popular is a simple but satisfying stir-fry, such as
chicken breast cut into long strips with fresh onions and green
and red peppers. Because it’s cooked to order, the colors stay
bright, and there’s no need for any other garnish.
In June 2012, Yumor added a “deluxe room service” option,
featuring a high-end a la carte selection. For $4 extra, a patient
can order a shrimp cocktail, a warm brie and fruit platter, or
lobster ravioli. Charges are billed directly to the room after each
meal. Yumor says sales of guest trays and deluxe items shot up
after the deluxe items were introduced.
food that helps heal
Paul Gizara, vice president of product development for Aramark
in Philadelphia, knows that excellent food can please and comfort
patients. And the power of food doesn’t stop there, he says. “We
feel strongly that there’s a preventive role we can play, especially
with good nutrition.”
If a patient is admitted nutritionally compromised from not
eating, it takes several days to build up the patient before a physician
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT 1) Patient satisfaction with foodservice at Overlake
Hospital is greater since the introduction of a room-service approach. 2) At Bon
Secours St. Francis Health System, a Morrison Healthcare Foodservices program
called Catering to You focuses on specialized attention. 3) This warm brie and fruit
platter is a deluxe-room-service option at Sibley Memorial Hospital.
Top right: At Overlake Hospital, patients can call an operator between 6: 30 a.m. and
7: 30 p.m. and order from a menu, item by item.
A CAREER IN HOSPITAL FOODSERVICE
“IF I WERE RUNNING a restaurant,
I might never see you after that one
meal, but I see the people I serve
every day, and I get to become part
of the community,” says Paul Gizara,
vice president of product development for Aramark in Philadelphia. He
adds that by its nature, healthcare is a caring environment. He also likes
interacting with doctors, nurses and other professionals who are doing
Paul Manuel, director of food and nutrition services for Morrison Healthcare
Foodservices at Bon Secours St. Francis Health System, Greenville, S.C.,
enjoys talking to patients “because patients are often surprised by the quality
of the food.” A conversation with a new patient about the food is similar to
what a chef does in one of the finer restaurants, he says, allowing that his
customer just might be in a hospital bed.
Manuel has been to job fairs to help his company recruit. As hospitals move away
from batch cooking, he says, there’s a demand for more culinary talent
there. Often, it’s not recent grads who seek out this segment, but those who have
worked in the restaurant industry and want a change. “What they like is that they
can still use their culinary skills, but in a different setting that’s more favorable.”
Christopher Linaman, F&B manager/executive chef at Overlake Hospital,
Bellevue, Wash., joined the hospital seven years ago. Based on interviews
and discussions before he was hired, the boss showed him the menu and
gave him free reign to run the kitchen the way he thought best. “The freedom
is what I enjoy most,” he says.
He adds that “working in the hospital is 100 times more family friendly and life
friendly than a restaurant or hotel.” Along with work schedules that are usually
predictable, there’s the compensation. “Everyone we talk to is surprised about
the wages.” Add to that benefits, food benefits and free parking.
At mid-sized and large facilities, career advancement can be a feature of this
segment, says Melanie Yumor, a Sodexo director of food and nutrition services
at Sibley Memorial Hospital, Washington, D.C. For example, a lead cook may
cook a few times a week and supervise at other times. Beyond that level is the
job of executive chef or production manager. At Yumor’s hospital, one way a
patient-side cook may expand skills is by being called to work the retail side—
cooking in the cafeteria—when someone is on vacation.
Jim McGrody, director of food and nutrition at Rex Healthcare, Raleigh,
N.C., recently added a new dimension to his career in foodservice. He first
encountered the hospital-food challenge some 10 years ago, after 20 years
in colleges, corporate dining and hotels. He began to see results in pleasing
patients, so he self-published a straight-talking book, What We Feed Our
Patients: The Journey, the Struggle, the Culture ( iUniverse.com, 2011),
serving up his hard-earned insights.
McGrody has no plans to write for a living. He’s never had a job outside
of food, and never wanted to do anything else. But today, he’s also an
invited speaker at events, a culinary-contest judge, and head of a culinary
training program called Black Hat Chefs. The book brings a different kind
of satisfaction. “It has changed the way people perceive hospital food, and
that’s my goal,” he says.