Hospital cafeterias traditionally aren’t considered a gourmet dining experience, but that will soon change in San Francisco.
Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center serves 1,500 meals each day to patients, and over 1,200 staff members and visitors dine daily at the hospital’s café. However, just 22 percent of patients in the past year rated the food as “excellent,” and many say the menu offers limited choices with food lacking flavor and cultural sensitivity.
That’s why the hospital is looking to revamp its dining experience for patients, visitors and staff with a major, multiyear overhaul that will align with the modern elements of its new trauma center, said Shermineh Jafarieh, an associate hospital administrator with San Francisco General.
The location of the cafeteria on the second floor of the current trauma center won’t change when the new trauma center likely opens this spring. But thanks to a $100,000 grant from the hospital’s foundation, the space will receive a makeover in the coming months as well as numerous other upgrades.
For instance, the hospital has hired a new executive chef who will start next month and create more seasonal offerings on the menu. Additionally, hospital officials plan to open a farmers market at the cafeteria’s patio.
“For the first time, we’re not just looking at serving food and making sure it’s aligned with a nutritional diet, we’re thinking about how can food be better, not only healthier but tastier and mindful of the people we serve,” Jafarieh said.
Rachael Kagan, a spokeswoman for The City’s Department of Public Health, emphasized the food served today meets all health standards and the effort to revamp the cafeteria is voluntary.
“There’s no current crisis or regulatory issues or quality issues,” Kagan said. “It’s really about, how do we improve and make our food services more pleasing to patients, and that the employees who work in food services have a better work experience.”
San Francisco General previously contracted its food services with Sodexo from 2010 to 2015 before joining forces with its current provider, U.S. Foods. But past bad practices in food service, like a limited and bland menu, left a bad taste in the mouths of patients, staff and visitors.
In fact, a survey conducted in 2009 found “significant deficiencies” in the hospital’s Food and Nutrition Services, according to a staff report presented to a Health Commission committee earlier this month.
“[Food and Nutrition Services] has not perceived itself, nor perceived by hospital staff and patients, as an area of excellence,” the staff report states. “Late trays, tasteless food, outdated café, and limited menu have been accepted as the norm.”
The hospital has already taken steps to improve its nutrition program, from its sugar-free beverage campaign last summer to reducing the amount of meat served in the cafeteria. Still, hospital officials say more food-related changes are on the horizon.