From labor shortages to the impacts of Covid, it’s been a challenging few years for hospital foodservice directors. These hurdles were outlined in the latest version of the Foodservice Director’s healthcare foodservice survey, and there are some clear trends that emerged.
THE IMPACT OF THE LABOR AND STAFFING CRISIS
Much like other industries, staffing is a huge challenge for healthcare foodservice directors, particularly since staff sizes often consist of fewer than 10 employees. According to the 2021 survey, 39 percent of respondents report fewer than 10 workers with 75 percent reporting 25 or less. This can mean that staff is harder to replace, that staff’s headcount has potentially shrunk due to external circumstances, or both. Compare those data points with the beginning of the pandemic. Fifteen percent of respondents reported laying off or furloughing staff due to the pandemic.
The most important statistic, though, relates to the biggest challenges operators faced during the Covid pandemic, with 81 percent reporting staff shortages and illnesses as the biggest hurdle. Coming in second at 71 percent was difficulty in sourcing products.
THE IMPACT OF COVID ON STAFF
As we just mentioned, 15 percent of healthcare foodservice directors reported the needed to lay off or furlough members of their teams. These were some of the unwanted circumstances from the early days of the pandemic, but what about now? The vaccine has created safer work environments, but what about those workers who opt out of vaccination? According to the Foodservice Director, 57 percent of healthcare foodservice operations did not require staff to be vaccinated, while 27 percent weren’t sure yet at the time of the survey, which was in March and April of last year.
THE IMPACT OF COVID WITHIN THE OPERATION AND THE COMMUNITY
One of the biggest challenges during Covid, especially in senior care communities, was to keep residents safe but also engaged. Mental health is such a critical component in senior care operations, so foodservice directors had to do whatever they could to help residents remain part of the community. The most popular method listed by survey respondents was mobile food carts, coming in at 76 percent. Other options included virtual events (59 percent) and virtual cooking classes (12 percent).
In terms of the community, 70 percent of healthcare foodservice directors said they worked with community partners during the pandemic. Individual volunteers from the community were the most widely reported at 57 percent, with local restaurants and local farmers coming in second and third at 52 percent and 28 percent respectively.
OTHER HEALTHCARE FOODSERVICE TRENDS FROM THE PANDEMIC
As we look back over the last two years, the survey data reveals a few other important trends. The first is that waste reduction and sustainability efforts were mostly paused during the course of the last few years, with 63 percent of respondents making that claim.
In terms of menu trends that are dictating future service, there are four important ones. Surprisingly, boosting immunity is the lowest at 23 percent with global cuisines and plant-based menu items emerging more popular at 32 percent and 34 percent. The most important menu trend for the future according to healthcare foodservice directors is portability, with 64 percent stating the importance of mobility in foodservice.
2022: HEALTHCARE FOODSERVICE TRENDS IN CONCLUSION
As we’ve seen, Covid and the subsequent fallouts have had major impacts in healthcare foodservice. From menu direction to patient engagement, one of the most important solutions is a successful mobile foodservice plan that keeps foods fresh and at ideal serving temperatures.
Lakeside and our team of brands can help you find solutions for successful mobile foodservice operations.