While they haven’t seen the shutdowns some other onsite dining segments have, hospital foodservice departments have also been hard hit by coronavirus-imposed mandates as visitors—a prime source of retail dining revenues—have been severely limited, while in-patient counts in many areas of the country declined as facilities limited or postponed non-critical and discretionary procedures, resulting in lower in-patient censuses and therefore fewer patient meals.
As the coronavirus threat recedes, the backlog of those postponed discretionary and non-critical cases likely will present hospitals with a short-term surge in patients, which means dining services may have to gear back up fairly quickly. Fortunately, hospital dining operations generally have built redundancies and surge capacity into their operations in anticipation of a potential coronavirus-induced deluge, and so may be in a fairly good position to handle any increase in demand for patient meals.
Retail dining in hospitals, however, may continue to be limited depending on how liberally visitor policies are loosened—assuming they are at all. For instance, while hospitals may again begin allowing visitors, they may limit them to those accompanying or visiting family members, or they may even bar them from the cafeteria to limit possible spread of germs to staff.
Also, one possible issue some hospitals with traditional tray lines may face is how to modify them to maintain sufficient social distancing and limiting contact of common surfaces among workers.
This is part three of an eight-part series on the future of onsite operations following the COVID-19 pandemic. The first part is on the impact of salad bar; and the second is on the impact of colleges.