Hospital Food Trays

The Impact of Healthcare Consolidation on Foodservice Operations

July 21, 2020
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Hospital and health care systems will continue to merge this year as a way to navigate increased operating expenses, shifts in outpatient care, reimbursement changes and growing competition.

In 2019, 87 percent of hospital executives said they would explore merger, partnership or acquisition deals within the next 12-18 months, according to HealthLeaders Media.

Reports anticipate this to result in three types of healthcare transactions:

Big and small healthcare systems merging to create multistate, megahealth systems.
Solo hospitals being absorbed by larger hospitals or systems.
Hospitals in suburban areas engaging in joint ventures, according to a report.

Consolidation of healthcare systems results in a higher volume of patients, staff and hospital visitors, which puts pressure on foodservice operations. As a result, foodservice directors must seek efficient and cost-effective solutions to handle demand.

There are many solutions that foodservice directors can implement to streamline their operation, improve consistency and save money.

 
1. Central kitchen setups
A central kitchen is a commercial kitchen space used by multiple restaurants, healthcare or hospitality groups to prepare or cook food (either semi or fully) before distributing to different locations.

Central kitchens are efficient because they automate the production process and delivery. With everything prepared in the same location, food is cooked with more consistent taste and quality. The central kitchen also creates a single location for food prep and storage, which can decrease waste and improve inventory tracking.

If the central kitchen isn’t used to capacity, it can be rented to another healthcare system or restaurant to generate additional revenue.

 
2. Cook-chill process
Cook-chill is a food preparation technique that involves fully cooking large amounts of food, followed by rapid chilling and storage at controlled temperatures.

Blast chillers and shock freezers cool food quickly through the “danger zone” of 140 degrees and 40 degrees Fahrenheit — the ideal range for bacteria production. While blast chilling preserves food for up to five days, shock-frozen food can be stored for months.

Cook-chill is a flexible and efficient foodservice solution that facilitates quick and safe production of large amounts of food. It increases shelf life and preserves flavor and freshness.

It also helps with consistency. Chefs can guarantee food preparation will be consistent using the cook-chill method. Then, less-experienced kitchen staff can reheat portions based on demand.

The production system is completely safe, so long as you follow the Department of Health Guidelines on temperature and time controls.

 
3. Combination cooking
Combination cooking is a technique that stretches your dollar by transforming tougher or “cheaper” cuts of meat into delicious entrees. The technique uses dry heat and moist heat cooking methods to cook flavorful, but less tender, veggies and meat.

Dry heat adds browning and caramelization, while moist heat tenderizes with long exposure to moisture and low heat.

Braising, stewing and pot-roasting are all combination cooking methods. They are what prepare the tender, comfort food dishes your patients know and love like pot roast.

With healthcare systems in flux, implement these small changes to streamline your operations, create consistency and improve your bottom line.

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