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September 24, 2019 Healthcare

Back-of-House Technology Trends for Healthcare Kitchens

There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes in the kitchen of a healthcare facility, and much of it is backed by technology. Technology is playing a more significant role in the function of the foodservice equipment and in gathering the data to monitor activity and solve issues — ultimately benefitting the facilities and their patients.

There are two types of back-of-house technology: operational and reporting. Operational technology refers to the true function of the equipment and how it can impact kitchen performance by being more flexible, environmentally friendly or efficient. Reporting technology, on the other hand, incorporates intelligent ways to collect and store data in order to make more educated business decisions. This technology, and the related data, are typically categorized into one of three groups: recipe/cooking, consumption/usage and maintenance/troubleshooting.

Operational Technology

Advancements in operational technology benefits commercial kitchens and have applications for the healthcare space. Take a look at these examples of innovations from the hot and warewashing sides of the foodservice equipment industry.

Heated, self-serve pick-up stations – This innovation takes the pick-up shelves found at Panera or Chipotle to a new level. Little Caesar’s had the first heated, self-service mobile order pickup station in the restaurant industry. Customers pre-pay for their order, and once they arrive at the store, they can bypass the counter and retrieve their items from a secured compartment using a 3-digit or QR code.

Holding cabinets with tray tracking timers – The timer starts automatically when the tray is inserted into the cabinet. If the tray is moved, the timer stays with it and continues to keep the time.

Multi-functional equipment – When space and budgets are limited, equipment that serve multiple functions is an ideal option. Some examples include:

  • Ovens that serve as convection & non-convection steamers, rotisseries, convection and combi ovens
  • Fryers that transition from open air to pressure frying
  • Cook stations that function as a griddle, saucepan, braising pan, steamer, pasta cooker, rethermalizer and fryer

Enhanced warewashers – Redesigned interior components have resulted in improved wash flow and better heat insulation for flight-type dishwashers, contributing to greater energy efficiency.

Washbasin sensors – This technology provides feedback on standing water levels, cleanliness and temperature. If they don’t meet the pre-determined acceptable levels, the water will automatically drain and refill.

Reporting Technology

Whereas operational technology focuses primarily on the equipment, reporting technology helps analyze equipment’s performance. This information could be delivered via app, cloud-based or Bluetooth connections, but they all give operators greater remote control over the equipment. Some of these tasks include activating or terminating processes, adjusting temperature and running diagnostic tests.

Consumption data is also important — measuring levels of electricity, water and other consumables. Reporting data provides critical insights into equipment performance. Some of the variables available for measurement may include:

  • Cycle rates
  • Utilization rates
  • Cycle times (completed/cancelled)
  • Cleaning cycles
  • Operational status
  • Time charts (peak/low)
  • Demand analysis (food) production statistics

With foodservice and engineering teams working in tandem, this hard data can help healthcare facilities make informed decisions about future equipment selections. In addition to equipment technology, other software types that could be significant include inventory management, procurement and service-oriented maintenance logs. This information can be integrated to better monitor the operation’s overall efficiency. Additionally, technology that offers reporting data to maintenance focuses on bringing equipment online and keeping it up and running. Data can help determine whether an issue requires a repair or replacement and help facility managers make solid maintenance decisions.

As a leading distributor of 100% Genuine OEM parts, equipping maintenance professionals with data to make intelligent business decisions is Heritage Parts’ area of expertise and drives several technological innovations, such as My Equipment360™.

My Equipment360 allows managers and service technicians to create an online database of their equipment for quick reference and easier part searches. This tool creates a library of information to help ensure that the appropriate details are utilized for repairs. My Equipment360 has the ability to do all of the following:

  • Part identification (model, serial #)
  • Error logs/needed actions
  • Location information such as campus or floor
  • Documents, manuals, parts diagrams
  • Service provider listings
  • Warranty documentation
  • Installation data
  • Photos/Videos for Simple Fix™ quick repairs

How foodservice operational technology benefits the overall facility

Not only does back-of-house technology impact kitchen equipment, it can also contribute to a positive patient experience. When it comes to meeting patient expectations, individual choice and desired delivery time are key. Technological advances , be it a single piece of multi-functional equipment or space-saving equipment that allows multiple units to fit within a designated footprint, can broaden a hospital’s menu options without a significant investment in space or cost. By employing these flexible units, it allows facilities to diversify their menus and produce made-to-order meals more efficiently at the requested time.

Indirectly, technology advances in foodservice equipment can also help improve patient satisfaction scores. There may not be direct questions about the foodservice experience in HCAHPS surveys, but food quality, choice and speed of delivery are things that patients remember. Meals create a “halo effect” of sorts when patients respond to the questions. Therefore, creating a menu that satisfies most palettes, tastes good and is delivered at the expected time and temperature needs to be a priority for any healthcare operation. By investing in equipment with built-in technology that provides foodservice and engineering professionals with measurable, actionable data, attaining your desired patient satisfaction scores can be a reality.


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