Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC), the only academic medical center in New Hampshire, wanted to ensure that staff on all hours and shifts had access to fresh, healthy food choices. Traditionally, that meant keeping expensive cafes open at times when traffic was going to be minimal.
Fortunately, technologies have advanced to the point where this type of anytime meal service is possible. At DHMC, the solution lay in refrigerators from supplier Byte Technology, which have recently proliferated in hospitals as well as in schools, offices and other environments where widespread availability of quality meals is desired at a reasonable cost.
“Byte refrigerators allow us to sell our own high-quality food products without having to staff a retail outlet,” says Katie Bradford, director of food and nutrient services at DHMC. “As a hospital, we are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, but our main cafeteria and coffee shop are closed at night and on weekends. Demand during these times is much lower, making staffing difficult. The hospital has a 24-hour food vendor, but it has had several unscheduled closures during the pandemic. Our employees have started to share their feedback that having consistent and reliable access to fresh food at good prices makes a big difference for them. »
Bradford says she heard about the refrigerators last November during a New England food service managers conference call.
“We were talking about using technology to make fresh food available when it’s not practical to open and staff a retail establishment,” she recalls. “Someone on the call started talking about Byte Technology. We had recently started selling “micromeals,” or meals in a microwaveable container, in our cafeteria, so I knew we had a product that people would buy.”
She ended up installing three fridges in February and has since added a fourth, all located in the Micro Mart room near the main cafeteria which is open at night and on weekends when other food outlets are closed. closed. The fridges each store different options – one has micro meals, another salads and sandwiches, a third stores fruit cups, yogurts and other convenience items like cheese and snack packs. meat, hummus, guacamole, and tuna and chicken salads, and the fourth has drinks and additional micro meals, which are top-selling items.
“Our charcoal roast and turkey dinners are popular, as are the chicken or scampi with prawns,” says Bradford. “We also offer vegan dishes like tofu, tempeh, and grilled tofu.”
She says what she loves about the platform is the online dashboard, which she says is user-friendly and simple to use. “I don’t consider myself a tech expert in any way, and I have no problem using the online dashboard to manage Byte refrigerators,” she offers. Financially, Byte handles all credit card transactions for a fee and sends its remaining profits to DHMC each month. “This means we don’t have to do all the accounting for Byte refrigerator sales,” adding, “Offering discount/coupon codes has also been helpful and Byte Technology has been great to work with. They are very responsive when we have questions.”
The clientele is made up of employees who work nights or weekends to care for hospitalized patients, including doctors, residents, nurses, nursing assistants, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, patient transporters, laboratory staff, environmental services technicians and dietitians, and they seem to have embraced this option, as has the nutrition services team responsible for maintaining the units.
“Initially, my operations team was wary of the new technology,” says Bradford. “They were a little worried about how it would work and if it would be complicated to maintain. Now those concerns are gone and they like to predict what food options people will buy. Their main concern now is to be able to meet the demand. They always want to offer the right variety and quantity so people have a choice. Meeting demand is our biggest challenge, which is why we added a fourth refrigerator. We always want our customers to find something they want.
Meanwhile, customer feedback has been “very positive,” she adds, sharing an example of the type of gratitude emails she’s received from employees. It reads…
“Hi, I’m a night shift nurse at 4 West and just wanted to say a big THANK YOU for the Micro Mart. It’s been such a life saver for me at night. The meal selection is really good and very affordable for the lunch of quality you get!Plus, it’s much faster and more convenient than going to the store, and there are actually healthy choices with grains and veggies!My favorites so far are the chicken scampi and garlic with quinoa, the turkey dinner and the chicken saute with artichokes. I also like the salads and the fruit cups. The feedback from my colleagues has also been very positive and they are happy that this option is now available. I read that there will be a fourth fridge added, I can’t wait to be there! Thank you for this very well thought out programme.
Refrigerators currently average about 90 transactions per day, or about 650 per week and 2,800 per month. On weekdays, each fridge is restocked once a day while on weekends they are restocked three times a day: morning, noon and evening.
Ultimately, the units proved to be a major benefit to DHMC’s on-site restaurant operations, not only in terms of customer satisfaction and additional sales, but also in streamlining back-end operations, said Bradford.
“Byte refrigerators have helped us standardize our food production schedule, which makes working fair during the week,” she explains. “It’s been great for our production team. Having night and weekend sales helped us reduce food waste and keep everything fresh. The flexibility has been wonderful. At a recent staff meeting, we closed our main cafeteria and coffee shop and opened the Micro Mart. Byte refrigerators have been a huge hit for us. Our people are our most important asset, so it’s a great feeling to know they can deliver the food they want, when they want it.