Healthcare more likely ‘business as usual’
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Although most healthcare dining operations are closing their dining areas (as we see for foodservice overall), very few healthcare foodservice operations have shut down completely, the survey finds. 66% have closed dine-in service but are still offering takeout and delivery, similar to all foodservice operators, at 65%. Only 6% of healthcare dining facilities have shut down completely, while 30% of all operators have completely closed for the time being, the survey finds. And 28% of healthcare operators are open completely for business in all respects, including dine-in service. Of all foodservice operators, just 5% were totally business as usual.
Hospitals are hit hard
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But before you think it’s all good news, healthcare operators are getting hit too, like the rest of the industry, but from different angles, according to Datassential’s findings. The obvious angle is the coronavirus itself: Some hospitals in areas hardest hit by the fast-spreading virus are at capacity and struggling with limited beds. Other healthcare facilities have eliminated elective surgeries and are preparing for a surge in patients but may first be dealing with reduced occupancy rates, some as low as 50%. Visitor meals have essentially stopped, and that’s the higher-margin side of the business. 56% of healthcare food sales are down, compared to 92% for all operators. 38% are seeing no change (compared with 6% overall).
The supplier-operator connection
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Datassential’s report found that healthcare operators say supplier-operator communication is more important now than ever. Keeping lines of communication open (referred to in some business circles as “over-communicating”) allows impactful transactions to happen: Healthcare operators are open to taking items from distributors that might otherwise spoil since they are no longer in demand from other segments. The report finds a best-practice to be “passing along everything from a heads-up about the expected supply of disposables and chemicals, to sharing that they have pre-packaged grab-and-go sandwiches that can be quickly delivered (since they were destined for another foodservice outlet that has since closed).”
Staffing shortages ‘likely to only get worse’
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Datassential recognizes that staff cuts are impacting healthcare to a lesser degree than the industry overall, but “while the news is focused on the magnitude of restaurant workers who have been cut, healthcare operators have somewhat the opposite problem,” the report points out. “Although some are making cuts, they still need to feed patients. Sick workers are being told to stay home, childcare is a challenge for many as schools close and healthcare operators are generally worried that staffing headaches will increase.”
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Some healthcare operators are splitting their staff into two groups so that if a positive case is found in one group, their operation still has employees who can work and won’t have to be quarantined. As the report concluded, “healthcare operators, perhaps more than other segments, pride themselves on being able to move mountains, but that doesn’t mean they like the ground under them shaking.”