Ask healthcare foodservice professionals about some of the challenges that keep them up at night and they will try to tell you their businesses are much like other industry segments. And, in a sense, they are right.
Like other operators, healthcare foodservice operators continue to look for ways to harness the impact of customer-facing technology, source more local and seasonal ingredients and provide transparency when it comes to menu development. In addition, like their peers from other industries, healthcare foodservice operators continue to look for innovative ways to deal with rising costs, specifically labor.
But in many respects, that's where the similarities end. You see, many healthcare foodservice providers are now being charged with shaping the conversation on what steps consumers should take to lead more healthful lifestyles in general. This leads healthcare foodservice operators down a series of unique paths. For example, many healthcare foodservice providers now interact with patients once they have been discharged, with the intent of lowering recidivism. That's because proper nutrition, particularly after a hospital stay, can help reduce the likelihood of a patient boomeranging back to the hospital, which is a win for everyone involved.
And many healthcare foodservice operators now operate on-site gardens. In doing so, they engage and educate employees, patients and other members of the community about the benefits of healthy eating, while exposing these individuals to farm-fresh produce. If you are lucky enough to visit the farm at a place like Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center (page 32), you might actually get to take a bag of fresh veggies home with you.
All of this takes place in a pretty dynamic setting. Consolidation remains a popular trend among many of the top healthcare systems. While these mergers may offer some benefits, from a healthcare perspective, they pose some foodservice-related challenges. For example, one system may use a contract foodservice provider, while the other may be self-operated. Or, how the parent company views foodservice may differ from one organization to the next. The net result is that the foodservice operators need to learn how to work together moving forward without compromising food quality or service. This is no small task and it represents one of countless, complex challenges healthcare foodservice operators must face.
The good news, though, is that healthcare foodservice operators remain an innovative and resourceful lot. They network to share best practices, solutions to common challenges and much more. And in this issue we celebrate that resiliency.
From the front of the magazine to the back you will find plenty of healthcare foodservice coverage. And we thank those operators and consultants who took time from their days to share their stories with us. We think the net result is a mosaic of information, inspiration and much more that will benefit all members of the foodservice community.