August 28, 2009

Changes enhance dining options for inpatients and at hospital cafeterias

Featured Image

Ken Anthony, with S&K Construction, begins work on renovations to the Courtyard Cafe's serving area. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Changes enhance dining options for inpatients and at hospital cafeterias

In an effort to improve customer satisfaction, Vanderbilt University Medical Center has switched food service providers from Aramark to Sodexo.

Along with this transition come significant changes in inpatient food service and improvements to the cafeterias at Vanderbilt University Hospital and the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.

“Sodexo’s charge is to improve patient satisfaction through a new tray delivery system and to improve employee and visitor satisfaction through the cafeterias,” said George DeLong, associate hospital director.

Leading the food service changes is Walt McClure, administrative director, and a team of nine other managers from Sodexo.

DeLong attributes patients’ low food service satisfaction to the current cook-chill system, which cooks food to 80 percent done days ahead of its serve date, then rapidly chills it. When it is time to serve the food, it is plated on a tray and placed in a box that reheats it in about 45 minutes.
Though the food always arrives hot to patients, the menu is limited to items that reheat well and the food cannot be garnished.

When the Critical Care Tower opens in November, the increased elevator capacity will allow for a transition to a cook-serve system in which food is cooked the same day and delivered hot and fresh.

“Patients will have to order their food one day in advance, but we think this change will drive higher levels of patient satisfaction,” DeLong said.

“We can expand the menu and offer more choices, and the food presentation will be better. We can use better china and garnish it like a restaurant would with parsley and lemon wedges.”

Children’s Hospital will continue its patient room service, but with an expanded menu. The full menu is available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and orders will arrive in 45 minutes.

The menu was designed with input from the Family Advisory Council to ensure the selections were child-friendly. New items that are expected to be popular include smoothies and milkshakes.

Though the Courtyard Café has undergone extensive renovation in the past year, DeLong considers the upcoming changes to be a second phase of that process.

“The intent of the first renovation was to increase throughput, provide healthy options and create a fresher look. We got increased throughput and some healthy options, but we could go even further. This next phase gets us more healthy options and will continue to meet customer needs and demands,” he said.

Here are the expected changes:

• The current pizza station will become a Baja Fresh, a Mexican chain specializing in burritos and tacos.

• The “meat and three” station will transition to Sodexo’s Charleston Market concept, a more upscale version.

• The coffee station will move with the other beverages to provide space for another salad bar lane. The double-capacity salad bar will reduce wait times, and both lanes can be continually stocked from a space in the middle.

• The world cuisine station will become an Asian concept called Mein Bowl that services stir-fry, fried rice and sushi.

• At the Children’s Way Café, the Vandy Café will be replaced with a Charleston Market and grab-and-go options will be expanded. The current cashier stand will become a salad bar, and a new cashier stand will be added.

“We’ll stage everything because we don’t want to close it all down again and inconvenience everyone. It will start with the salad bar, then go clockwise with Mein Bowl, Baja Fresh and Charleston Market. I think we will have it done by October, hopefully sooner,” McClure said.
Despite these enhancements, prices are not expected to rise.



• At peak meal times, the Courtyard Café serves 810 people per hour
• 4,000 people are served per day at the Courtyard Café
• 10,000 bottled Coca-Cola beverages are consumed per week
• The average check is $4.27