Hospital Kitchen Rises From the Waters

Hospital Kitchen Rises From the Waters

THE OLD AND THE NEW. Above,the old dishroom, just after the flood. Here, Houston Methodist’s new production kitchen.


In the spring of 2001, the kitchen at Methodist Hospital in Houston was a mess. More than seven feet of water made the space unusable. Of course, this being a hospital, the foodservice operation couldn't just suspend activities until everything was cleaned up and brought back on line.

So the staff went to work. First, the cafeteria—located a floor above the kitchen and thus high and dry—was converted to a temporary materials management storage space while a temporary cafeteria was set up in the lobby, using the undamaged servery and finishing equipment to prepare the food. The conference room became a patient service prep space for plating and tray assembly. Dishes were washed in the cafeteria dishroom while retail operations went completely to disposables.

Attention then turned to the waterlogged kitchen. In truth, the hospital had outgrown its existing cook-chill production system and wanted to convert to a room-service approach. Fate, as they say, took a hand and made that transition possible.

This fall, Houston Methodist unveiled the results of its floodprompted makeover. The patient feeding production area now has two identical workcenters facing each other. One assembles traditional patient meals while the other fills room service orders. The patient tray side is augmented with the capability to cook some items to order, allowing it to fill lastminute change requests.

Each workcenter includes a finishing kitchen staffed with a cook and located only a few feet contains backup supplies of salads, desserts, beverages and tableware.

Meanwhile the hot food production kitchen retains a sig-nificant cook-chill component where items like soups, sauces and some special diet and texture modified foods are produced, both for patient feeding and the retail cafeteria.

The new cafeteria is considerably larger than the one it replaced. Able to process some 2,500 transactions (as opposed to no more than 1,800 previously) during a peak three-hour weekday lunch period, it has also added about 1,500 sq.ft. to its footprint. It boasts eight entrée stations (deli, hot sandwich,"chef ’s special,” hot entrée, carved meat, Italian/ pizza and grill) in addition to two salad bars, a double soup/bread station, an extensive grab-andgo area and dessert, snack and beverage stations.

Currently, cash sales are running at around $15,000 a day.

To effect the entire redesign, the hospital worked with food-service design/consulting firm Robert Rippe & Associates. The total equipment cost was $4.5 million ($2.5 million for the kitchen $2 million for the cafeteria).