There was a time when patient feeding was the center of the healthcare foodservice universe. Thanks to insurance companies and managed care, though, the length of time patients spend in hospitals continues to shrink. As a result, most healthcare foodservice operations tend to resemble more of a hybrid model, one that includes some patient feeding with a growing emphasis on corporate dining/retail solutions, catering and more.

Certainly, taking care of patients remains a top priority but they often consume a small minority of the meals healthcare foodservice operators produce each day. In fact, the scope of healthcare foodservice continues to creep well past the traditional campus boundaries. As part of their updated mission, many of today’s healthcare systems strive to establish a greater presence in the communities they serve. And that approach continues to affect support services such as foodservice.

As a result, growing numbers of healthcare foodservice operators must now serve as advocates for healthy eating by teaching people in their communities how to prepare more nutritious meals on their own. It’s one thing to provide healthy meals to someone while they visit a healthcare campus but it’s another to give them the knowledge and ability to continue eating this way once they return home. In support of this evolving mission, many new and renovated healthcare foodservice operations now feature teaching kitchens where the culinary staff show that healthy and delicious can co-exist nicely on the same plate.

In addition, a growing number of healthcare foodservice operators now take their healthy menus and culinary demonstrations to the streets of the communities they serve. One such example is the Mobile Education Kitchen that The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center operates. This vehicle extends the operation’s ongoing culinary education efforts by making house calls to community events and accompanying the medical center’s mammography vehicles. People who visit the vehicle see chefs in action as they provide live cooking demos and more.

Of course, healthcare is not immune to the challenges and trends other foodservice industry segments must address. Labor challenges, pressures to cut costs while raising revenues and staving off increased competition from both traditional and nontraditional entities represent but a few of the very real issues healthcare operators share with their peers from other industries. Unfortunately, there’s no panacea to address these pain points. Dan Henroid of UCSF Health shares his thoughts on what healthcare foodservice operators will need to do to remain successful today and in the coming years.

Combine healthcare’s evolving mission with significant business challenges and you come away with a pretty dynamic and rapidly changing foodservice segment. We hope you enjoy reading about it in this issue.