Case Studies

Case Study:  Should this client outsource the catering service?

Dining Experience Specialists were engaged by a medium sized aged care facility to undertake a comprehensive review of their meal service to explore operational risks and consideration of outsourcing the catering service.

The project started by clarifying the strategic outcomes for the meal service.  It included a deep investigation into the quality, safety, waste, constraints and cost of their current meal service.  A residents meeting highlighted an expectation of consistent high quality meals which can only be achieved with system and process integrity.

In the diagnostic report Dining Experience Specialists recommended 39 easy ways staff could immediately improve the dining experience for residents.  Two major constraints were identified that increased operational risk and reduced a quality outcome.  

Hidden cost was unearthed and suggestions were made to allow savings to be reinvested into the dining experience. New equipment was recommended and subsequently purchased to future-proof the kitchen with less capital outlay than anticipated.

It was agreed the client would implement the recommendations, address the constraints and look at the next phase of the project with Dining Experience Specialists.  Outsourcing was put on hold for the time being.

Case Study:   Reviewing cost, waste and the dining experience at this 180-bed facility

This large spreadout site was well above external and internal benchmarks in food and labour.  The Hospitality Manager had made minor tweaks to the rosters, however there was no clear strategic direction, there were no clear baselines and there was no consistent approach to the meal service between shifts and dining areas.

Staff felt change-fatigued after numerous iterations. Many had been with the organisation for more than 20 years. They knew that if they dug in their heels long enough, things would go back to the way it has always been.  They had developed a strategy of 'you tell us what to do and we will tell you why it won't work’.

Rather than seeing the review as an opportunity to pitch their case to management, staff feared they would lose hours in another knee jerk reaction to cutting costs.  They spoke frankly, from previous experience.

Previous changes proposed were short on commercial rigour and sometimes contrary to industry best practice.  Capital expense on new equipment and layout was spent on undoing the previous change despite no difference in the number of residents nor demonstrable improvement in quality or cost. 

Estimating an average hourly rate proved challenging with the complex enterprise agreement and agreed penalties and allowances. Hours in one shift examined over a 13 week review period saw a rate of $134 per hour plus allowances.

The kitchen produced fresh meals daily with a variety of catering equipment.  Despite producing nearly 200,000 meals per year, there was no production schedule, and tasks were written on paper during the day as the Cook deemed necessary.

There were complaints about the quality of the food.  While kitchen staff worked hard to produce hot, tasty, nutritious meals, it was common for components to be cooked and hot held up to 4 hours before serving.  The meal was well and truely “murdered” by the time it reached the resident. But it complied with the food safety program and passed audits. Ordering was also done on an ad hoc basis with no clear strategy of par levels. Components were cooked up to 2 weeks ahead of consumption.

Food waste was estimated at 30-40% of all that was cooked. Up to 30% of residents were ordering an alternative to the main meal option at some meals.

A quick audit of the dietary profiles showed differences between the latest updates, the kitchen and dining room servery.  When this was pointed out to staff, they said they had a fair idea of who had what.  Each servery kept up to date with changes by profile sheets, diary, whiteboard, stickys, notebooks, memory.  The risk to residents sent my alarm bells off.

There was wide variance in the dining rooms, some were serving the meal 45 minutes prior to the advertised meal time.  Some dining rooms were predominantly absent of care staff who took no part in the meal service. Other areas saw great care staff interaction.

Review Outcomes:

23 recommendations to improve the dining experience within budget

$265,713 savings by reengineering meal service delivery

Reduce oven-to-resident holding time from 4 hours to 1 hour

Further information on recommendations and outcomes can be discussed upon request.