The main idea of Market on the Move is serving more hospital staff at more places within the 12 floors and connected children’s hospital and older section of the University of Kentucky HealthCare (UK HealthCare) in Lexington. This teaching hospital is the No. 1 trauma hospital in the region, and serves the surrounding areas, including rural Eastern Kentucky and even into Tennessee.
While Kentucky hasn’t been hit as hard with COVID-19 compared with other regions, “we have people who come here from a lot of the smaller regional hospitals, because we have the setup and the equipment” to treat COVID patients, says Terri Schnurr, system director of food and nutrition at UK Healthcare.
Like other hospitals, when the pandemic hit, retail volumes went way down, between no elective surgeries and limited visitation in the hospital.
“We normally do a huge volume of retail,” Schnurr says, referring to a main cafeteria and several smaller cafés between the connected children’s hospital and the older wing of the building. “We were trying to figure out what we could do to be able to increase our volumes. We didn’t want to lay people off due to decreased volume. And we wanted to partner with the hospital, because we knew the challenges the employees were facing.”
The solution came from the outside, in the form of DoorDash and Grubhub coming in through the backdoor. In addition, local restaurants were donating meals to hospital workers in the first phases of the pandemic (Nice, but also cutting into the hospital’s retail business). How to compete?
“We needed to be able to do something too,” Schnurr says.
During a weekly call with Morrison Healthcare corporate support, Schnurr and her colleagues learned of a new program that hadn’t yet been tested anywhere: Market on the Move, a system of meal delivery carts with mobile POS systems that could freely roam throughout the hospital, including hard-to-reach places, like the COVID-19 unit. “I texted my retail manager immediately and said, ‘We need to do this right now,’” Schnurr recalls.
“We just went from there,” Schnurr says. “I empowered one of my retail new managers, Bethany Hall, who took a lot of interest. She took the ball and ran with it.”
The cart—a repurposed tray cart—was successful right away. The hospital staff—amazing, capable people under quite a bit of stress during this time—appreciated the convenience.
And an unintended result, the few visitors (parents of kids in the children’s hospital and dads in the maternity ward) on the floors were able to get convenient meals, too.
Schnurr and the team created menus with their customers in mind. “We wanted to have a good variety and feature a nice product mix, and we also wanted to tailor it to different times of the day,” she says. “For example, in the morning we feature such things as bakery items, energy bars, bottled juices, smoothies and for those who need extra caffeine, we have espresso and coffee drinks. For those who want something healthier, we have packaged fruit and yogurt-granola parfaits made fresh in house.”
In the afternoon, for someone looking for lunch, the carts are loaded up with freshly prepared sandwiches, salads and wraps, “and if someone wants a pick-me-up in the late afternoon, we have mixed nuts, fresh fruits, naan bread, chips…just a variety of options and we change it frequently so they don’t get bored with it.”
There’s no cart service at night, but that’s when pizza delivery from the main cafeteria (open 24 hours) comes in.
In the future, Schnurr hopes to use the cart as a portable test kitchen and a pop-up for themes.
“If we get to that point, it would be great to do a roving theme cart, with things like tableside guacamole,” she says. “And we have a lot of nice outdoor areas, so there’s a lot of opportunity to venture into new things. It’s like our own food truck!”
Contact Tara at [email protected].
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