The Impacts of COVID-19 in Healthcare Foodservice

Of all the places where COVID-19 is having the most impact, our hospitals and healthcare facilities are at the top of the list. On the care side, there are new protocols and processes that have had ripple effects across entire healthcare campuses, and healthcare foodservice has certainly seen the results of those waves of change.

The new normal in healthcare foodservice

In a recent white paper released by the Association for Healthcare Foodservice, they detailed what the “new normal” might look like, and we wanted to walk you through some of those highlights here.


We’ve all seen the news reports of people not having food during the coronavirus pandemic coupled with images of farmers destroying food because they don’t have customers to buy it. Put together, these two concepts represent a huge gap in our food supply chain.

The AHF predicts a new way of maintaining relationships between healthcare foodservice providers and the distributors from which they purchase product. Operators should develop deeper and wider ranging relationships with providers and encourage Group Purchasing Organizations to do something similar.

The coronavirus has also exposed just how vulnerable we can be. When a single meat packing plant is overwhelmed by COVID-19, for example, it can have major impacts in the availability of the food supply. One easy way to overcome potential shortages is to maintain menu flexibility in order to accommodate for any potential issues.


There’s obviously been a major increase in to-go and pick-up foodservice delivery in the age of COVID-19. In many ways, it’s this element of service that’s keeping many restaurants open. This concept isn’t just exclusive to restaurants, though.

Delivery is critical to combating COVID-19, especially in our most vulnerable senior care and longterm healthcare communities. As we saw at the outbreak of the virus, retirement centers and senior communities can be some of the hardest hit, and changing up service delivery to minimize risk is critical. This is why operations are eliminating dining room service and are providing in-room delivery instead.

For shorter-term facilities like hospitals and acute care centers, there’s also been a shift to sustainable and individually wrapped foods, as well as contactless food pickup options.


If there’s one thing you’re probably accustomed to seeing in a hospital cafeteria it’s a salad bar or buffet. In the age of COVID-19, these types of services aren’t viable, so look for a lot of changes to what you’d normally expect.

The self-serve model is going to pretty much disappear for the foreseeable future across all aspects of foodservice, and for those that do try to implement it, there will still be changes. From utensils that guests take down the line with them in a self-serve environment to turning self-serve into staff-serve, the goal will be to keep people safe.

These changes come even after the CDC reports the virus is primarily spread from person-to-person rather than by touching surfaces and objects. At the same time, these transmission factors will lead to further social distancing processes and more adherent sanitation protocols. Handwashing and sanitizing stations, though quite common in hospitals, will be even more available.


All of these changes impact one group more than any other — the people who work at these facilities and communities day-in and day-out. There will be enormous challenges even in the future for our heroic healthcare staffs.

Some of the biggest changes will come in the training our healthcare workers receive. From cross-training to deal with COVID-19 to a lack of funding that comes from cutting out elective procedures, pretty much every aspect of a healthcare community will be reevaluated, and with those changes in philosophy will come changes in process.

Healthcare foodservice will likely never be the same. As a result, the equipment and supplies we use to provide it will change, too. Discover them today in our new Healthcare Foodservice Solutions Guide.


Topics: Foodservice Industry Trends, Healthcare