Top Reasons for Simplifying Menus During Pandemics
During this pandemic, many hospital food service operations are serving more patients than usual while also experiencing loss of staff and limited supplies. Simplifying your menus is one operational adjustment you can make that will help.
Hear from CBORD experts Dawn Kelly, RD, professional services consultant, and Peter Kornbrust, MS, RD, senior implementation manager, as they explain in this Q&A blog post.
What are the top reasons for needing to minimize menu offerings during pandemics?
In our experience, the top reasons for implementing a simplified menu during times of crisis are:
- Being short staffed.
- Having a high census with additional populations to feed.
- Having limited supplies.
What are the benefits of transitioning to a simplified menu in your hospital foodservice operation during a crisis?
Menus that accommodate most diet types help to reduce production complexity and time. There will still need to be variation of items based on modified textures and food allergies, so simplifying the base menu to accommodate most will help operations under stress. Also, simplified menus allow for timely menu production and delivery of trays with limited staff.
How can adjusting menu options help with the influx of patients during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Increases in patients admitted requires flexibility with menu planning. Since larger quantities are required, having easy to prepare items supports the ability to produce meals and feed all.
How does altering menu offerings help deal with staff loss in times of crisis?
Food choices that are easier to prepare can save time for the existing staff who will have more to do within the department when there are less co-workers. For example, not making salads that require a lot of chopping affords staff time to produce more of another less complex menu item, or allows the extra time to assist with sanitation or meal delivery.
How does food access, availability, and utilization become affected during pandemics and how do simplified menu items and ingredients help address this?
There could be disruption in the food supply chain, staffing, and patient load that demands flexibility with the menu provided. The main goal is to provide safe, calorie-adequate meals during a patient or resident stay. For example, it may be easier and more accessible to make frozen hamburger patties instead of meatloaf due to a decreased skill set. A change such as this may be equivalent in nutrition, allergies and for textures, plus it could save time. If patients are being housed in locations without a kitchen, providing cold meals may be the only option. Whatever the menu change demanded, should be reviewed for food allergies, modified textures and adequate nutritional provision with a dietitian. Preparing easy to make items, with foods on hand, will require creativity and monitoring for patient safety, but will be necessary during a time of crisis.
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