The healthcare industry has been quite in the boom these days due to the COVID19 pandemic. But the foodservice industry took a hit except in the healthcare industry, food service had to really adapt and complement the demands of the situation. Hospitals had to come up with new ways to serve food to their staff as well as patients getting treated. Usage of PPE suits and extreme sanitisation has become a norm for both industries. Trends in the healthcare foodservice sector are not limited to the pandemic but also the newfound health consciousness amongst the population.
Adapting to consumer demands in healthcare foodservice
With the pandemic, rise in healthcare expenses and decrease in lifespan, the foodservice industry faces many challenges in serving the growing number of patients. According to NPD Group, a company that provides market research reports, globally in 2010, the spending on healthcare amounted to nearly $2.2 trillion, with food comprising about $55 billion and non-food at over $500 billion.
Consumer demographics are changing
Hospitals serve mainly two groups of customers, patients and staff. Due to the health risks, they need to take extra care about their food service. Innovative methods of preparation are being employed to meet the needs of patients and staff. The scientific reasoning behind this is that cooking healthy food helps to reduce hospitalization rates. Healthy food can also be easily digested by the body, whereas unhealthy food can increase the chance of health problems.
Healthcare has always been known as the industry that deals with food-related medicine. However, the recent COVID19 pandemic has shaken things up and is thus considered to be the root cause of all these things. The emphasis is now shifting towards fancy-free hospital cuisine, no plastic cutlery, tablecloths, or perfunctory applause by the management.
Reaching out to the community
This healthcare industry is at a stage of evolution now where they try to reach out to the community for healthcare. Being patient-centric, they try to keep the healthcare process as simple and easy as possible for the patients, especially for the elderly and the children. Catering to the varied needs of these patients and hence offering specialised food menus. Healthcare facilities are trying to bridge the gap between patient-centred food services and the adoption of kitchen innovations. Medical canteens serving cuisines from different communities and religions have become a common trend in the healthcare sector. Food service companies are integrating various cuisines on a large scale.
Room service is also a huge thing in today’s food service scenario. Digitally available menus and payment gateways could help the patients order and receive what they want in a convenient way. The trays could be tracked as well.
Menus could also be changed according to databases and specific to what that specific patient is allowed to eat using artificial intelligence and more.
Smoothies with added vitamins for patients suffering from vitamin deficiency are a new trend that is catching on in various hospitals. This is part of the efforts to deal with a nutritional crisis and provide proper nourishment to patients. Baking is also becoming a rage in hospitals as it is easy and fast to serve and reach out to customers in hospitals. Personalized nutrition needs is another trend that has been seeing a boom. Supermarkets have incorporated its virtual meal solutions that allow the consumer to pick the meals they want to eat while they are in hospital. What is more, the foodservice industry is also catering to the food requirements of the corporate companies in hospitals as well. Companies like Texas Roadhouse have already ventured into the healthcare segment.
Technology enhancing healthcare foodservice
Foodservice companies need to modify their food services along with promoting their benefits. They need to provide healthier food to consumers at reasonable prices, reduce wastage, serve relevant menus, etc. They also need to utilise the technology to deliver better services to consumers. They need to customize food to meet consumers’ tastes as well as consumer behaviour. The staff of the hospitals do not have more than 30 minutes for meal consumption due to their busy schedules so they try to make the most out of such little amount of time. To reduce the time required to stand in line and pay for food before consuming can be reduced by badge cards which can be scanned for payment right at the cafeteria entrance. Mobile applications can also be used to pre-order food. AI is revolutionizing the way we work with the supply chain. It is helping in forecasting, inventory management, improving cost-efficiency and delivering quality. AI is assisting in reducing overall production costs and ensure uninterrupted supply. Hospitals have been trying out AI as a tool to improve their operational efficiency.
Menus for the room service could also be changed according to databases and specific to what a specific patient is allowed to eat using artificial intelligence and more.
Hospitals are trying to get the attention of their patients. Hospital clubs and activities, healthcare photos, hygienic and healthy food options and integrated healthcare are among the many ways of making the hospital a pleasant place for patients and staff. The healthcare industry is really upping its foodservice game and wishes to makes the patient as comfortable as they can be during their stay and leave happy and healthy.