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New Hospital Room Service Program Features Varied Menu, Formal Wait Staff, Fresh Cooked Meals

New Hospital Room Service Program Features Varied Menu, Formal Wait Staff, Fresh Cooked Meals
M. D. Anderson News Release 06/07/00

A new dining experience at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center has patients feeling as if they are enjoying their meals in a fine restaurant rather than a hospital room.

One of the first of its kind in the country, Room Service at Anderson is now being offered to all inpatients and their families. With a room service menu that features an array of breakfast, lunch and dinner choices, patients can order a variety of hot entrees featuring beef, poultry, seafood, pork and pasta.

Patients are not asked to place menu selections the day before service, as has been customary at M. D. Anderson and in most other hospitals. Instead, they can order when they are hungry by contacting the room service call center, with a promise that delivery will be made in 45 minutes or less.

Trained staff take orders by telephone, making sure selections meet a patient's dietary needs. The food is then delivered to the floor on restaurant-style dinnerware and presented bedside to the patient by a server dressed in a crisp, white shirt and vest.

"Our goal is to offer the most unique hospital dining experience available anywhere in the country," says Dr. John Crossley, vice president for operations and nursing. "To accomplish this, patients are offered fresh cooked-to-order food from an extensive restaurant-style menu. The intent is to provide food patients want, when they want it."

Making the new full service possible required extensive renovations to a special production area in M. D. Anderson's kitchen, changing from a "bulk cooking" to a "cook-and-serve" arrangement. Additional staff, including cooks with a la carte experience, servers, call center assistants and management staff were hired to help prepare and deliver the more than 800 room service meals ordered at M. D. Anderson daily.

"Patients welcome the opportunity to order meals when they want. They like the extensive menu and that the food is hot and fresh when it arrives," says Jim Patterson, director of food and dining services. Patterson cited patient comments including:

"Best hospital, best food I've ever eaten."
"More like a hotel than a hospital."
"Absolutely wonderful!"
"Able to eat with pleasure for the first time."
"Enjoy the friendly service."
"Greatest thing you could have done."

According to Carol Frankmann, director of clinical nutrition, the room service encourages many of our cancer patients to eat better because they choose the foods they want and are able to eat when they really feel like eating. "Our call center assistants are familiar with foods that are tolerated during cancer treatment and play an important role in helping patients with food choices," she said. "Meal orders are tracked, and patients who have not ordered, or are unable to order by phone, are visited by the wait staff."

Patients are not the only ones taking advantage of room service. A guest menu is available for family members and friends who are staying with the patients or visiting. "This is a very popular option. The guests really appreciate being able to eat in the room with the patient," Frankmann says.

Specialty dishes on the menu include everything from stuffed shrimp to fried chicken and baked vegetable lasagna to chicken fried steak. Hot soups, a variety of freshly-made salads and deli sandwiches, and cooked-to-order individual pizzas also are among the lunch and dinner selections. A "Hot off the Grill" section of the menu allows patients to order All-American classics such as hamburgers and chili dogs. Smoothies and milkshakes are popular items, too.

Room Service at Anderson also meets the needs of patients from other countries. Translation needs that can not be met by the servers, many of whom speak several languages, are handled by Language Assistance staff. In addition, a special menu has been created to meet the unique cuisine needs of Arabic patients.

Patients can place orders for breakfast from 6:30-10:30 a.m. and lunch and dinner are served 10:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.


© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center