Staff reporter- Business First
The health-care industry has been working overtime to eradicate the scourge of “hospital food.”
Mount Carmel St. Ann’s this month opened Bryden Bistro – with pale stone walls, big-screen TVs and a 545-degree brick pizza oven – as part of its $110 million, 60-bed heart-care addition to be complete in fall.
The Columbus system is part of a national trend to make hospital menus healthier and cafeterias fancier.
“They have to appeal to an evolving consumer,” said Catherine Adams Hutt, a Texas restaurant consultant who has added more hospital clients over the past decade and seen “tremendous evolution” in healthier menus offered to both patients and visitors.
“They have done that very much with an eye to business,” she said.
St. Ann’s President Janet Meeks said the 1984 kitchen was built when the Westerville hospital had 90 beds – that’s soon to be 330 – but in making it bigger, she wanted it better. Adam Harms, Mount Carmel system executive chef, redid the menu to reduce fat and sodium and add fresher ingredients. As of April, assembly lines shipping trays to rooms at set mealtimes have been replaced by made-to-order room service.
“One of the top things people remember from their hospital visit is the food,” Harms said. “We wanted to raise the bar even higher.”
Room service now is the norm at the other three Columbus hospital systems: Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, OhioHealth Corp. and Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The systems also have worked for healthier menus – with room for fun such as Children’s new gelato stand.
“Whether we like to admit it or not, we’re in competition with other restaurants,” said Jim Warner, program director for food nutrition at Wexner Medical Center. “One of the ways we can do that is just keep up with the decor.”
Ohio State’s $1.1 billion expansion to open in 2014 will have a cafeteria with touch-screen ordering kiosks and an outdoor terrace cafe off the 14th floor in the new James Cancer Hospital. During off hours, the terrace’s kitchen will be used for healthy cooking lessons for cancer patients.
Changes already are underway in Ohio State’s other hospital buildings such as its Ross Heart Hospital.
“We got rid of our deep fryers,” Warner said, and 85 percent of beverages offered now have no sugar added. “We have Coke and Sprite, but you have to hunt for it,” he said.
OhioHealth added a fast-casual sandwich shop in the surgical tower addition at Grant Medical Center in 2007 and in the past year renovated the main cafeterias at Grant Medical Center and Doctors Hospital.
They have brick pizza ovens, too, as does the new cafeteria in the expansion of Nationwide Children’s Hospital that opened last year.
Hospital officials said they’re conscious of keeping cafeteria prices affordable. For patient room service, the goal is to stay break-even, with less wasted food balancing the cost of better ingredients.