The Healthcare Foodservice Trends Directors Should Know About

Delivering hospital food tray

With expectations of high customer service continuously increasing, hospitals and healthcare facilities are seeing changing demands and preferences in the foodservice industry.

We’ve taken stock of the most notable foodservice trends affecting the healthcare industry, as well as what is driving these changes. Read on to learn more about what is on the horizon.

Room Service

The stereotypical image of patient dining in a hospital is a tray of pre-selected food that shows up in their room. Foodservice for patients, however, is now much more commonly trending to room service, which allows patients to choose from an a la carte menu, selecting the items that appeal to them.

Giving patients access to room service results in a number of benefits:

  • Reduced Costs. Room service avoids bulk cooking that might go to waste and allows hospitals to more accurately forecast demand.
  • Reduced Waste. Along with reducing operating costs, putting choice in the patients’ hands also eliminates the likelihood of food waste.
  • Controlled Diet. Any dietary restrictions can be associated with a patient’s room, allowing their menu selections to be limited accordingly.

Retail Rules

Foodservice in the healthcare space is much more than patient dining. Retail is becoming an increasingly critical component of foodservice at healthcare facilities. Almost 70% of respondents to the Health Care Census Report have indicated a growth in their retail operations. Both lunch and breakfast are seen as significant opportunities for growth in the retail sector.

While traditional cafeterias are one way hospitals are filling the retail foodservice need, there are a number of other opportunities that are appealing to diners. Coffee kiosks, cooking demonstrations, catering, food trucks, and even full service restaurants are now part of the national healthcare foodservice conversation.

Menu Variety

Hospitals and healthcare facilities are expanding their menu options to meet growing dietary demands and preferences. Some facilities are including plant-based menus, which are a natural fit in the healthcare space. Focusing on plant-based, however, requires significant planning and sourcing around produce, which could be a change for some foodservice directors.

Other facilities are incorporating more unique cultural cuisine, such as Moroccan, Indian, and Thai food. Foods with bold flavors help provide excitement and variety, but it also requires sourcing of spices and ingredients that may not be as common.

And speaking of sourcing, there’s great value in local, sustainable food sources. Like so many full service restaurants across the country, hospitals and healthcare communities are not only sourcing foods from local farms and sources, but they’re also using those sources on their menus to drive marketing value.

Space Restraints

One constant struggle for most healthcare facilities is space. Space is at a premium and often comes at a significant cost, but foodservice executions bring with them significant space demands. One way foodservice is evolving to address these space restraints is by implementing off-site delivery or pickup food options for staff members, who are another important demographic for hospital foodservice.

Another way space demands are addressed is through adoption of space-efficient equipment. Such equipment could include ventless ovens and induction cooktops. Space is sure to remain a challenge, and companies in the foodservice industry will continue to innovate to address these demands through the use of equipment.


It is clear that sustainability remains a trend across all foodservice avenues, and healthcare is no exception. A focus on sustainability serves the dual purpose of providing cost savings and fulfilling corporate social responsibility initiatives. One way sustainability is being addressed is through energy and water-saving equipment, as well as sourcing compostable and recyclable serving ware.

Work With a Great Partner

As you work to tackle the upcoming foodservice trends and challenges in the healthcare space, working with great partners can make all the difference. From chef support to recipe development and implementation, seek out those who can help you raise the level of service in your healthcare operation.

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