Room Service: Best Practices and What to Avoid
It has been over a decade since acute care facilities embraced the trend of a more individualistic foodservice delivery model, known in many hospitals as room service. This model, which can boast a restaurant-style menu and extended kitchen hours, allows patients to order meals using a range of options including via high-tech, TV-based order entry systems. Popular goals for choosing room service include improving patient satisfaction, reducing food costs and minimizing incidences of malnutrition. Furthermore, when patients order the food they want, when they want it and how they want it, a reduction in food waste and enhanced meal consumption can be expected; making room service a style of service that truly caters to the patient.
Those who have experienced the transition from traditional service to room service -- especially early adopters! -- know the shift doesn’t come without challenges. Yet…with the knowledge gained over the last ten years, room service is finally moving past some of those identified roadblocks.
Here are a few aspects of the room service model that are key to its success and will help you establish best practices.
Constructing a well-designed menu with meals served on time
Most experts agree that a successful room service program starts with the right menu, one that is patient-centric. Most facilities promise meal delivery in 45 minutes or less. In this short time, the food must be prepared, checked, transported and delivered, which only leaves about 15 minutes for food preparation. Choosing the right menu items, ones that can be prepared promptly and maintain quality during the delivery process is important, because ensuring that promised delivery times is met is also vital to patient satisfaction.
Moreover, a simplistic menu that still offers variety to patients is key. One typical pitfall in implementing room service is the temptation to offer too many menu options. A wide variety would seem to improve patient satisfaction, but may actually have a negative effect, due to it placing added complexity and decision-making on the patient’s ordering process.
Creating a positive, enthusiastic working environment
Carefully staffing your room service program with employees who possess the right demeanor of politeness and courtesy will help to foster an effective environment. Continual training in customer satisfaction and nutrition only help to equip employees with the necessary skills they need to do a great job. Experts agree that well-trained employees have more confidence in their work, know their purpose and find importance in the room service process. Studies also prove that a caring environment increases patient satisfaction scores.
Putting the right technology in place
Room service is a fast-paced environment. Having a comprehensive software system, designed to obtain meal selections, schedule orders and print appropriate meal tickets is imperative to the success of any room service model. Programs that help guide the meal selection process, especially for therapeutic diet orders, by flagging restricted items and tallying nutrient totals make the process more efficient. Additionally, phone systems that supply caller information, such as name or room number, reduce caller hold times, since operators can verify information prior to call pick up.
Considering realistic metrics
Understanding what it really takes to get the job done and not overextend staff is important to the success of the room service model. Room service cannot survive without adequate staffing, so having realistic expectations is key. For example, management should consider the number of calls an operator can take in an hour, the number of trays the culinary staff can prepare and the number of meals that can be delivered. Staffing shortages have not only shown to decrease employee satisfaction, but also the quality of patient service.
Building a strong partnership with ancillary staff
A room service program is a team effort. Ancillary teams, in addition to Food and Nutrition, play an important role in room service. Obtaining the support or “buy in” of the entire facility is essential to the model’s success. All teams must understand both the purpose of the service and how it works to achieve the program’s effectiveness. Another important step is to hold informational sessions that keep the entire facility aware of any changes to meal service. Things like menu and staffing changes or adjustments to the ordering process will help to ensure patients are getting the most out of room service.
Patient satisfaction and reduction in food costs are clear benefits of an effectively implemented room service program. More than ever before, hospital foodservice finds itself significantly impacting the ideal patient experience. Improving a patient experience takes proper planning, determination, collaboration and training. When establishing a room service model, learning from others and following best practices will ensure success.
Article by: Liz Levenduski, MS, RD, LD, Product Manager; Fusion, 3rd Quarter, 2017