The latest in Rational’s series of online hospital webinars discussed food to go opportunities at length.
Currently it’s overlooked by many Trusts, yet it can be a great revenue earner. As panellist Tim Radcliffe, facilities manager at East Lancashire Hospital, said: “Every time we get in a third party to run vending, we are selling our family silver.” On the other hand, food to go has to be about more than chocolate and crisps. Fellow panellist Nick Vadis, culinary director at Compass Group, said: “We have a moral duty to ensure our food to go offer gives people the option of healthier choices.”
Vadis talked about the current attitude in some hospitals where food to go is seen as a necessary chore that doesn’t make money. He recalled going into a hospital and asking if they had thought of serving pizza. There’s no demand for it was the reply – at which point a Deliveroo driver walked in carrying four. “It may not be healthy, but the demand is clearly there,” said Vadis.
Colin Parry, a Rational director, agreed that this is a big commercial opportunity that some hospitals are missing. However, he emphasised the need to consider nutrition in the context of food to go, healthy options must be part of the package. Radcliffe agreed: “We need to be better at the technology. The equipment available for vending or unattended retail is so different from what it used to be. There are some fantastic products to help with food to go for salads, chips, smoothies, croissants, pan au chocolate… you name it.”
Naomi Campbell, an independent hydration care nurse consultant, said food to go could play a critical role in improving staff catering, so they feel valued. While Radcliffe described the online catering app his Trust has introduced for staff: “They can order pizzas, breakfast, sandwiches and so on. We make them on site. Staff don’t have to queue, they can pay online, select their time then come and pick up and go.”
Philip Shelley, chair of the NHS Hospital Food Review, said that the changes required needed courage. “We often talk about cost savings in hospital catering, but the opposite of that is increase your income. You won’t increase income if you’re not brave with what you’re doing.” Several panellists referenced the high street and the need to learn from what retailers are doing with vending and food to go. “We’ve got to reflect the high street and reset our position,” said Shelley. “We need to innovate.”
One key element with food to go is having the equipment not only to hold it safely, but also to prepare it. Given the huge variety of products that are now part of the food to go scene, multifunctional cooking systems such as the Rational iVario and iCombi combination oven could deliver efficient, time saving and cost-effective solutions. Rational recently launched Live online seminars focused on food to go, which are run regularly and are free to attend.
Rational marketing director Adam Knights said: “Food to go in hospitals is a trending topic, and Rational is ready to support any healthcare provider wishing to provide high quality, healthier options for both its staff and visitors. Not only is this a great commercial opportunity but also an ethical responsibility to demonstrate that in all aspects of their operation they are providing the way back to good health.”
Rational is running its hospital webinars every 6 months. The aim is to provide a forum where NHS caterers and managers can find out the latest thinking and exchange ideas, in the wake of the NHS Hospital Food Review.