What's on the menu? Cutting food costs.

Hospital executives are continually asked to do more with less and look for various ways to counter inefficient spending.

Although food and catering budgets are rarely cut, it is crucial to have a cost reduction plan in place to combat the rising cost of food products. They best way to reduce these costs is through reduction of waste.

1. Identifying waste

To discover how much waste you currently have, your hospital can implement various measurement systems. The easiest and cheapest way to do this is through visual estimates from your staff. Additionally, your staff can begin tracking specific plate waste and untouched meals.

Some hospitals prefer a more accurate measurement, so they weigh food waste. Although more accurate in terms of weight, you are unable to see specifically what is being wasted.

2. Eliminating waste

Hospitals have an unfortunate reputation when it comes to food quality. This however creates a great opportunity to increase the quality in order to help eliminate things like plate waste and untouched meals. Hospitals can also implement dietary intake forms and patient food ordering to more accurately meet the needs and desires of patients. This will provide invaluable insight as to proper portion size and patient preference, further reducing the cost of food products.

3. Finding additional areas of waste.

Waste can be eliminated in areas other than patient meals. Take for instance water bottle elimination, a recent growing trend. People are drinking more tap water in hopes to save money and the environment. This is something hospitals can do as well. According to Greenhealth Magazine, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa, California decided to phase out the consumption of single-use bottled water. They started with catered events, in-patient areas and nursing units, producing a savings of $66,000 annually. Their next phase will eliminate single-use water bottles from the cafeteria.

4. Benchmarking

In addition to the multiple avenues for food waste eliminations, hospitals can save on the cost of food by eliminating over spending. Food service costs can easily be found through a variety of sources, and often can be provided by your food service provider or your food management program provider. The best way to find the true cost of your food is to take out your rebates and any food revenue, while keeping in any catering and floor stock. Below are some target benchmarks your hospital should be exploring:

  • Meals per patient day should be $3 or less.
  • Labor costs, which should include any benefit costs and outsourced fees paid to a 3rd party management company, should be less than $40 per day, all in to run the dietary operation.
  • Food costs per patient day should be under $8.50.
  • Reported rebates based on your agreements should be at a minimum of 5%.
  • Revenue targets generated from cafeteria and vending should be $30 per patient day.

George Malik, the CEO of Quality First Solutions, has been in the healthcare industry for the past 30 years and has saved millions for hospitals nationwide.

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