February 9, 2007

New management to upgrade cafeteria

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Increased efficiency is one of the goals of the hospital cafeteria’s new management firm. (photo by Susan Urmy)

New management to upgrade cafeteria

Last week, Vanderbilt University Medical Center announced a partnership agreement with Aramark Corp. to provide patient and cafeteria food service.

The agreement sets the stage for numerous improvements, such as: a VUMC cafeteria customer survey and menu makeover; an eventual $3 million renovation of the Vanderbilt University Hospital cafeteria that will provide expanded seating and more efficient service; and eventual fundamental change in how food is delivered to VUH patients.

“We're responding to feedback and suggestions that our patients, families and staff have shared with us to improve our food services in our hospital and in our cafeteria,” said Larry Goldberg, CEO of VUH.

With $11.6 billion in sales in 2006, Aramark is a Philadelphia-based company specializing in food services for stadiums, arenas, campuses, schools, hospitals and other businesses.

VUMC's 215 hourly food service employees will remain on the Vanderbilt payroll. A four-member management team from Aramark is scheduled to begin work at the Medical Center March 1.

The management services agreement gives Aramark financial incentives in three areas — finding groceries at good prices, increasing the efficiency of Vanderbilt's food service, and satisfying customers in the hospital.

The customer satisfaction targets are based on satisfaction surveys from VUH and the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. Both surveys will be expanded with more questions about food.

Lunches and dinners for VUH patients are currently prepared well ahead of time, then chilled down and reheated just before service. It's called cook-chill, and it greatly restricts menu options for patients.

In a few years, when VUH expands its elevator capacity, food service for VUH patients will change from cook-chill to restaurant style. Food will go directly from the kitchen to the patient without chilling and reheating, and menus will be room service style, containing more options than are currently available. VCH already offers a room service type menu.

Before recommending Aramark, a 25-member VUMC committee headed by Assistant Hospital Director Charlotte Chaney surveyed the market, conducted interviews with representatives of three food service companies and visited operations.

The VUH cafeteria customer survey was launched earlier this week. To take the survey, go to: http://www.customercloseup.com/Vanderbilt. If you cannot access the survey by clicking on the link, copy the URL and paste it into your Internet browser address bar and press enter.