Room Service Culture Change

In their haste to improve patient satisfaction scores by implementing room service, operators often have the misconception that they are merely trading one delivery system for another. However, the reality of the tradeoff is much more significant.

In fact, when converting from traylines to room service, operators trade one culture for another, creating a whole new energy and methodology that did not exist in their kitchens before. The entire flow of the business will be turned on its ear, and if you don't prepare your staff for this shift in culture, then you are asking for more challenges than any foodservice operator deserves.

Here are some tips on how to proceed.

  • Recruit from Outside

    So your first priority should be recruiting new staff from the world outside healthcare, but avoid those who are only tired of the daily grind of the restaurant business. Really focus on recruiting the right future leaders of your team, those who understand the culture you are looking to create.

  • Bring Them in Before the Conversion

    It is also highly beneficial to bring these new staffers into your operation before you convert. Allow them to build relationships with the current staff before the divisions common to a culture change can take effect.

  • Show Them What You Have Been Doing

    Train your new staff to the old ways so that they can better appreciate what your changes will mean to the veteran staff, and better know how to assist them with the transition.

  • Pair Up Old and New

    Set up a buddy system so that veteran employees can train the newcomers and then when the implementation occurs, the team building has already taken place and the new employees can mentor the veterans to new concepts.

Most of all, remember that room service may not be the answer for your operation or that a less extensive incarnation of the concept better suits your needs and desires to provide improved services to your patients.

If you decide room service is for you, proceed with building your team first. It will truly pay off in the end.


Eric Eisenberg is executive chef at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. Swedish implemented one of the first room service based patient dining programs in the country more than a decade ago.