Ask any foodservice operator and they will rightfully tell you their business is pretty complicated. But nowhere is that more the case than in today's healthcare foodservice industry.
Like other foodservice operators, those in the healthcare segment continue to come to grips with trends such as sourcing local and sustainable ingredients, preparing fresh and customizable menu items and leveraging technology to not only meet customer demands but also make the most effective and efficient use of labor. Operators must learn to adapt to and implement these changes, not over any one type of service, but with multiple formats that often include patient feeding and all of its formats, retail foodservice, private dining, catering and more.
Further complicating matters, today's operator must accomplish this as clouds of uncertainty cast considerable shadows of doubt over today's healthcare industry. The implementation of the Affordable Care Act resulted in a tidal wave of change throughout the industry that led to mega mergers among healthcare systems and the need to toss aside the previous fee-for-service approach to a more value-based approach. But all of that is on hold today as the country waits to see how the U.S. Congress will revise healthcare.
Indeed, given the need to remain relevant in the eyes of the customer to draw high marks and manage multiple service formats, it makes managing a healthcare foodservice operation challenging even in the best of circumstances. But today's economic and political environment further adds to the complexity.
That's the bad news.
Now for the good news: Today's healthcare foodservice operators continue to meet these challenges head-on and often with a smile on their faces. In this month's Operator's Opinion article, for example, Patti Oliver discusses how UCLA Medical Center's wellness and sustainability practices contribute to higher patient satisfaction scores.
UCLA Medical Center, though, represents just one example of innovation in this very diverse segment of the foodservice industry. That's why this issue of FE&S features a bounty of healthcare foodservice-related success stories. From military foodservice (Brook Army Medical Care) to senior care (Q&A with Frederick Buchanan, executive chef at Sherwood Oaks Retirement Community) to more traditional hospital-based foodservice operations, this issue features a thorough canvas of the healthcare segment. In doing so, FE&S celebrates how these operators overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges on a daily basis.
This issue also celebrates a specific character trait that makes the healthcare foodservice segment so special: a willingness among healthcare foodservice professionals to share challenges and successes with their peers. That spirit of sharing permeates the entire issue and provides valuable experience-based knowledge for anyone working in the foodservice industry.