In the hot production area, a two-burner range, tilting kettles, an upright kettle, double-stacked convection ovens, fryers, charbroilers, combi ovens and a roll-in rack for baked goods support production. Staff also use nearby 80-quart and 60-quart mixers to make items such as mashed potatoes and dough. Some items that staff prepare in the hot production area go directly to the pods and some to the blast chiller for future use.
In the adjacent cook-chill area, staff use 100-gallon kettles with agitator attachments to make sauces, soups and other liquid items. After they are cooked, they are released into a pipe that connects to bags from which oxygen is removed. Other items are packaged in a similar manner. A sealer closes the bags, which staff then place into a basket held in a chiller/cook tank. Staff then crank up the basket and move it into a mobile container that is easily rolled to the food bank, which contains a blast chiller. "Though the food bank can store cook-chill food for more than two weeks, we only keep it for a maximum of two weeks. Some products don't hold well for more than a couple of days and because of our quantity, we rarely keep food for long in the food bank," Dorsey says.
Staff use spray washers on hose reels to clean and sanitize the equipment. "The floor troughs have a disposer to help grind food so it can easily flow out into the sanitary line," Hofmeister says.
Production at the Pods
Four cooking pods, all the same design, allow staff to work within defined spaces that hold everything they need for tray assembly and require minimal movement on their part to place items in their proper places. Staff use a reach-in freezer, fryer battery, six-burner range, flattop griddle, charbroiler, pasta cooker, microwave oven, toaster and double-stacked and single-speed ovens to cook requested items. Shelving holds condiments while refrigerators hold yogurt, beverages and other cold items that staff assemble on trays and place in carts.
Two pods support a traditional tray-assembly model that works in tandem with a spoken menu. For this service style, hosts on patient floors help patients make selections and enter the orders using tablet computers, which transmit the information to a call center. The call center releases information to a printer in the kitchen, which prints out the order for staff to use in preparing meals.
To prepare the patient trays, staff place hot items on a plate heated with a pellet, and choose from cold and ambient temperature items nearby. They place trays in a hot/cold cart that other staff members walk to support rooms on the floors. Once at the patient floor units, carts are attached to a docking station that helps to both boost the temperatures of the hot food and chill the cold food before the patients receive their meals.
The other two pods support Sodexo's At Your Request room service-style model. With this system, patients look at menus in their rooms and phone their selections into a call center that resides in the central kitchen. Call center attendants type orders into a computer, press a button and the order prints at the appropriate pod. Golf cart-style vehicles powered by electricity then tow the carts to the patient floors. "We have to use this process because the meals are time sensitive," Dorsey says. Foodservice guarantees — unless there is an emergency — no more than one-hour delivery time from a patient's call to final delivery. Support rooms have speed ovens for heating late trays and nontraditional meals.
"All towers offer room service," Dorsey says. "But patients must be pre-qualified to use this system. For example, patients who are too sick won't use the system."
Cool Features Shine
"Since this project only involved the back-of-house central production kitchen, one of the highlights from an interior perspective is how bright the kitchen is," Khouw says. "Light-colored epoxy floors, fiber-reinforced plastic that lines the wall panels, and fluorescent light fixtures give the kitchen a daylight appearance throughout the day. Employees are much happier and more productive working in an environment that is bright and fresh."
Another notable feature is the insulated paneling that encloses the cold rooms for produce processing and garde manger. This insulation keeps the rooms at proper temperatures.
For wares, staff use separate retrieval carts to avoid cross-contamination. On the patient floors, staff place soiled wares into the retrieval carts and send them down to the basement level in elevators. Once on the ground floor, the carts are connected to the towline, an in-ground rail system that carries them on a track between the hospital buildings and the central kitchen. Staff use radio-frequency technology to track the carts to ensure they get to the proper destination.