Steamplicity: An innovative meal system that delivers
Helen Ann Dillon, BASc, MSc, RD; Sharon McDonald, BSc, RD, MSA; Ilona Jonus, BAA, RD, MBA
Abstract—In 2009, Morrison, the healthcare “food service” division of Compass Group Canada, introduced Steamplicity, an
innovative meal and meal delivery system. Morrison claims enhanced patient satisfaction with meals, reporting scores of greater
than 90% satisfaction and tray waste reductions of 39%. Patients are eating what they order. Reports of the waste typically
generated by a hospital’s food service operations are indicating Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) footprint reductions in the range
of 60% versus the environmental impact of previous meal delivery systems.
Hospital food has a colourful history of being criti- cized by patients and staff alike. Poor quality; taste- less food; little, if any, choice; and meals served
when convenient for everyone except the patient are just
some of the irritations that contribute to poor food consumption and poor patient satisfaction scores. We know
that patients frequently exhibit evidence of malnutrition at
admission to hospital with the majority likely to experience
further nutrition depletion during their hospital stay.1,2 We
also know that as much as 40% of the food served to
patients is not consumed.3–5 Poor food intake leads to
insufficient energy and nutrients needed to support recovery and is a waste of multiple hospital resources. In the
work undertaken in 2010 by Keller et al in the Canadian
Malnutrition Task Force “What Do Patients Say About Nutrition Care in Canadian Hospitals,” they identified a number of issues that contribute to poor food consumption by
patients. Of the 204 patients surveyed in four hospitals,
94% reported not getting the food they had ordered as a
reason for not eating along with challenges of inflexible
meal times and ordering systems including menus that
they did not understand.6,7
With patient satisfaction scores for Canadian hospitals
attracting attention and the mealtime experience frequently a poor performer in satisfaction audits, the overall
quality of the meal experience must change dramatically if
patients are to be nourished effectively and have shortened recovery times. Resource-intense operations including utilities usage, equipment purchase and maintenance,
the significant space required for a kitchen, and the
necessary skilled labour all contribute to the cost of operating a hospital’s food service program. Added to this is the
reality that many hospitals, to meet today’s food service
standards, require significant upgrading of their kitchens
with estimates ranging from $3–$6 million. Tony Humphries,
Vice President, Planning, Facilities and Support Services,
North York General Hospital (NYGH), Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states “that in 2008 it was realized that the hospital
faced the necessity of $3 million in renovations to bring the
food service operation up to code, and an additional
$700,000 to replace the patient meal delivery equipment.
Significant costs that would have only maintained the
status quo. Our interest grew in the Steamplicity system
which was truly innovative and less consuming of financial
resources.” With no end in sight to the pressures for cuts to
hospital spending while finding more resources to deliver
patient-centred care, the challenge is immense for healthcare leaders to drive efficiencies; reduce waste; and improve services including food and nutrition quality, patient
meal consumption, and satisfaction. Ontario’s Excellent
Care for All Act (2010) has clearly outlined “patient-centred
care” expectations for health leaders in Ontario with better
patient outcomes and improved access to care to be
tracked by tools including patient satisfaction surveys.8
Many hospitals have embraced Lean transformation as a
means of addressing the priority “to do more with less.”
The food service operation is ripe for Lean strategies that
will add greater value to patients and the organization
while driving waste out of the system. This greater value is
defined as better quality food, nutrition, increased food
consumption, and more support around mealtime for patients. Waste to be driven out of the system includes
utilities usage, food and nonfood waste, space within the
hospital footprint that could be better used for patient
care, and the time invested by nursing as they address
Within this article, Steamplicity, a new system for creating and delivering meals to patients, is introduced, and the
claims regarding the dramatic impact this system can have
on adding value and reducing waste are examined. The
key questions to be answered are the following: What is
Steamplicity? How does it work? and Does it deliver?
From The Good Food Mavens, Ancaster, Ontario, Canada (Dillon); and
Compass Group Canada Healthcare, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Corresponding author: Ilona Jonus, Compass Group Canada Healthcare,
5560 Explorer Drive, Suite 400, Mississauga, Ontario L4W 5M3, Canada
(e-mail: [email protected]).
Supported by Morrison, Compass Group, Canada, Mississauga, Ontario,
Healthcare Management Forum 2012 25:S20–S28
0840-4704/$ – see front matter
© 2012 Canadian College of Health Leaders. Published by Elsevier Inc. All
HOSPITAL FOOD SERVICE SYSTEMS: OLD AND NEW
In Canada, before the 1980s, the meal preparation system
was Cook Serve, a traditional operation in which food was
prepared and cooked on site and then distributed to patient
wards. Often, there was a substantial time delay between
production and consumption, and so the potential for quality
and nutrient losses was real along with the potential for lower
scores associated with mealtime satisfaction among patients.
This system was also labour intensive and required the skills
of chefs and cooks. Patients made their meal choices 1 to 2
days in advance of eating their meals, often finding that what
they had chosen in advance no longer met their diet prescriptions or addressed their appetites.
By the mid 1980s, Cook-Chill and Cook-Freeze systems
were being introduced. Food could be cooked in advance
and held in a chilled or frozen state until reheating of the food
for meal service, most often from a centralized kitchen. These
advanced meal preparation alternatives spawned the introduction of frozen prepared foods from outside food manufacturers and the outsourcing of food, which could replace
much, if not all, of the onsite food production. Coinciding
with these changes was a move toward nonselective menus
whereby considerably less variety was provided, and it was a
more streamlined, less expensive operation. However, patients lost the chance to choose what most appealed to them.
As covered by Edwards and Hartwell9 and from this author’s
observations confirmed by Morrison and others, for all the
investment and attempts to improve food service, patient
satisfaction scores remained lower than anticipated, and the
hospital’s carbon footprint continued to reflect waste and
high utilities usage.10
In 2009, Compass Group, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, the
world’s leading provider of food and support services to
healthcare, education, workplace dining, and special events
catering, introduced Steamplicity to Canada through Morrison, its healthcare food service division. Steamplicity, a revolutionary approach to creating and delivering meals to patients, leverages patented technology for quick, freshly steam
cooked food. Underpinning this system is the use of an extended choice restaurant style menu, personalized patientordering procedures, greater flexibility at meal times, new
fresh cooking processes, and individual patient meals cooked
in nursing unit level pantries and delivered within a maximum of 2 hours of the patient’s selection from the menu.
Steamplicity claims cluster around two themes, both driven
by the principles of Lean transformation and the appreciation
for the importance to patients of mealtime: (1) adding value
by delivering patient satisfaction scores of 90% with healthier, tastier food resulting from the combination of ingredients,
meal design, fresh cooking using steam pressure, bedside
order entry support in making meal choices, and a short time
of less than 2 hours between making those meal choices and
being served exactly what was ordered and (2) addressing
waste with reductions as significant as 60% less waste in food
and utilities usage, along with far less space and equipment
and nursing staff time spent addressing meal-related issues
rather than being focused on delivering patient care. The
purpose of this article is to investigate the basis of these
claims with the objective of providing health leaders with the
background needed to consider the implementation of Steamplicity within Lean transformation plans; environmental
impact reduction; and, ultimately, the meal consumption,
enhanced nutritional benefits, and mealtime satisfaction of
STEAMPLICITY: WHAT IS IT? HOW DOES IT WORK?
Steamplicity originated at Medirest, the healthcare division of
Compass Group in the United Kingdom. The invention in
Switzerland of a tiny steam valve that could enable healthy,
freshly cooked meals ready in 3 to 5 minutes had come to
their attention. Freshly cooked this way, the food quality from
colour to texture to taste was exceptional. In 2008, recognizing the tremendous potential for this technology in food
service operations within healthcare, schools, and business
dining, Medirest United Kingdom secured the rights to this
patented technology. The innovative meal and meal delivery
system, Steamplicity, was launched.
Tackling the poor quality of food being served in healthcare facilities across the United Kingdom became the proving ground for Steamplicity. Over four million Steamplicity
meals/year are now served in hospitals in the United Kingdom. Compared with the dominant Cook-Chill methods in
United Kingdom healthcare facilities, Steamplicity has
posted savings of 42% in the space required for operations,
66% in cost of utilities, and 81% in the cost of equipment
required to operate. In 2006, Steamplicity was recognized
in the United Kingdom with the Orange Best Use of Technology in Business Award for how this innovative valve was
being successfully applied in healthcare food service. In
2008, Australia and Canada began testing and implementing Steamplicity bringing the number to 10 countries experiencing the benefits of the Steamplicity system. In 2012,
trials will be under way in Asia Pacific.
The Steamplicity system is the sum of three distinct
components: innovative technology, food with great taste
and nutrition, and attentive service like you would experience in a restaurant (Figs. 1 and 2).
THE STEAMPLICITY TECHNOLOGY
Key to the Steamplicity system is innovative technology:
the patented valve inserted into the film used to seal each
meal package. By using microwave energy, this meal package turns into an individual high-pressure steam cooker.
The food within the package cooks at 120°C for approximately 3 minutes. In this cooking process, steam is generated
STEAMPLICITY: AN INNOVATIVE MEAL SYSTEM THAT DELIVERS
Healthcare Management Forum ● Forum Gestion des soins de sante´ – Fall/Automne 2012 S21
from the water content naturally found in the food. The
Steamplicity valve controls the pressure that regulates the
cooking process ensuring that every ingredient is perfectly
fresh cooked with all the natural flavour and goodness
HOW STEAMPLICITY WORKS
The material used for the packaging is polypropylene, a
sturdy, recyclable plastic polymer approved for and widely
used across the food industry. Polypropylene does not
contain any hazardous plastic materials such as bisphenol
A and phthalates. This material can be recycled through
waste collection programs across Canada. The resulting
pellets or flakes are used to produce an interesting range
of products such as plastic lumber, plastic lawn furniture,
playground equipment, and plant container pots as confirmed by Cascades Recovery, Inc, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Meal assembly and delivery
A state-of-the-art 6,140-sq ft cuisine centre is the site of the
assembly of Steamplicity meals and has the capacity to
produce 8,000 meals per day. Meals are prepared by placing the food in individual or bulk, heat proof, pressureresistant plastic packages that are sealed and refrigerated.
In advance of assembly, all meat and starch components
Figure 1. The Steamplicity system is the sum of three distinct components.
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S22 Healthcare Management Forum ● Forum Gestion des soins de sante´ – Fall/Automne 2012
(ie, rice, pasta, and potato) are cooked, whereas the fish
and vegetables (except peas and corn, which are frozen)
are placed into the meal packages fresh and raw. Meals are
fresh dated with a 6-day shelf life and held in refrigerators
closely monitored to maintain 4°C. Microbiological testing by University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada, confirmed the safety of this 6-day fresh dating.
An alternative assembly site model is the on-site mini
cuisine centre, which can be located in a hospital with the
potential to service other facilities in a region. Vancouver
Island Health Authority (Victoria, British Columbia) is outfitted with this model.
Steamplicity meals are delivered to client sites in temperature-controlled trucks and monitored by data loggers.
Sites order only what they need to cover them for 2 to 3
days of meal service. Throughout the food preparation and
delivery process, strictly monitored systems are in place to
ensure food safety and hygiene.
THE STEAMPLICITY FOOD
The meal bank
Meal options for the Steamplicity menu have been carefully and creatively designed by a Red Seal Chef and registered dietitians. Core to menu development is “Eating
Well with Canada’s Food Guide” and the importance of a
balance between traditional comfort foods and the need
for ethnic and vegetarian options. It also addresses the
need for special diets to be accommodated so that variety
is provided for all. Ingredients are sourced and quality
strictly managed by the procurement professionals at
Compass Group, Canada. Under this same oversight is the
specialized food required for pureed menus. These items
are sourced from outside vendors and delivered directly to
the hospital sites.
The menu provides extensive choice
At every lunch and dinner, patients choose from an extended choice, static restaurant-style menu in which all
items are available for lunch and dinner every day. The
anchor for a hospital’s menu is the 12–20 different Steamplicity entrees that have been preselected by the hospital’s
stakeholders from the Steamplicity meal bank of entrée
options. Patients have the additional options of freshly
made sandwiches and salads, a soup of the day with clear
broth always available; a dessert of the day and fresh fruit,
puddings, jello, and ice cream; and hot and cold beverages.
Patients can choose what appeals to them most within the
variety that is compatible with their specific diet order.
Menus are available in many different languages and also
in a picture format to ensure that all patients understand
the choices available to them.
Appetite appeal, great taste, and nutrition
Steamplicity meals are created to entice the senses with
bright-coloured vegetables; interesting textures ranging
from crisp cooked vegetables to the variety of grains,
pastas, and potatoes; and aromas that stimulate the appetite. Portions are designed to be adequate for most appetites. For those wanting larger meals, soup, a sandwich,
and a salad can be added to the hot meal choice. Lighter
meals for smaller appetites can be as easy as soup, a half of
a sandwich, and fruit.
With quick, fresh cooking provided by the steam generated in the meal package, great taste is the result. Studies
have shown that vegetables cooked in the microwave,
with the moisture coming only from those fresh vegetables, have higher vitamin C and folic acid values compared
with other cooking methods.11 With a compromised
Figure 2. Steamplicity’s steam cooking process.
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Healthcare Management Forum ● Forum Gestion des soins de sante´ – Fall/Automne 2012 S23
population like hospital patients, having the most nutrition
possible provided in the meals is a clear advantage.
STEAMPLICITY’S ATTENTIVE PATIENT SERVICE
The catering associate: A patient centric
This new food service role is dedicated to providing bedside assistance for patients with the restaurant model of
service as the benchmark. Catering associates visit every
patient seven to nine times per day. For many patients, the
catering associate is their most frequent visitor, and so a
special relationship is quickly established. For nursing, the
catering associate can provide invaluable information regarding patients.
Training for the catering associates is extensive. New
skills and new roles for these individuals create a steep
learning curve including customer service training for the
extensive patient interaction, the necessary information
technology skills for taking patient orders and confirming
compliance with diet orders, the new cooking and tray
assembling procedures, and time management skills.
To ensure that patients choose within the scope of their
diet prescription, the catering associate carries a handheld
device with up-to-date information regarding patient diets.
The same devices are used to record the food choices each
patient makes from which meal supplies are requisitioned
and trays assembled. Steamplicity can use either CBORD
(CBORD Group, Ithaca, NY, USA) or Computrition Food
Services IT systems (Computrition, West Hills, CA, USA).
Assembling and delivering patient trays
Approximately 2 hours before mealtime, catering associates visit each patient to discuss the menu options and
assist patients in making their meal choices. Being intimately familiar with all menu items, the catering associate
can describe and encourage items for maximum enjoyment by the patient. Patients can also place their meal
orders by telephone (dining on call). With the list of menu
items chosen, the catering associates go to the kitchen and
gather the required Steamplicity meals, freshly made sandwiches, and salads and desserts. Returning to their assigned ward pantry, they assemble the patient trays to
include the choices made by each patient, fresh cook the
Steamplicity meals in the pantry microwave ovens, and
personally deliver these appetizing meals.
WASTE REDUCTION AND THE ENVIRONMENTAL
IMPACT OF STEAMPLICITY
Space and equipment
The Steamplicity meal delivery system operates from a
much smaller kitchen footprint. There is no longer the
need for extensive food storage space including freezer
space, food tempering space, a meal assembly beltline,
and cooking/re-therm equipment. What is required in the
kitchen space is refrigeration for 2 to 3 days of Steamplicity
meals; fresh produce for salads, sandwich fillings, fruit and
juices, dairy, and desserts; minimal freezer space for soup
and pureed foods; the assembly of salads and sandwiches;
and dry storage for bread and sundries. Minimal ware
washing equipment is required, mainly for patient trays,
cutlery, transport carts, and the cleanup of the sandwich/
salad preparation area.
The “near to patient” pantries can serve 35 patients from
as small a footprint as 100 sq ft. Equipment includes one
small soup warmer, one or two toasters, a refrigerator, and
1,000-W commercial grade microwave ovens (one oven/10
patients). Dry storage is needed only for sundry supplies
With the elimination of cooking, heating via re-therm carts,
and extensive freezer and refrigeration capacity, the use of
electricity and gas are dramatically reduced, producing
dollar savings of as much as 60% compared with alternative systems. Even at the cuisine centre where over 8,000
meals per day can be assembled, the utilities for cooking
are minimal (ie, rice and quinoa only). Just-in-time deliveries from suppliers keeps frozen inventory at a minimum.
Refrigeration, although a sizable space, holds only 1 to 2
days of production with “just-in-time” scheduling and two
to three deliveries per week to hospitals guaranteeing the
“fresh” meals to turn over well within the 6 days of fresh
dating on each meal. These utility expenses across 8,000
meals per day at the cuisine centre result in a far greener
operation than the sum of single hospitals preparing, plating, retherming, and delivering their meals.
With patients ordering what they want to eat so close to
mealtime and the delivery of those meals coinciding with
when the patient is available to eat, the result is greater
food consumption and far less waste. In other systems,
extra trays are always assembled to be on hand for diet
changes. With the typical beltline assembly of meals in
central kitchens, considerable food is wasted in the form of
leftover servings. To ensure adequate supply for meal assembly, extra food will be prepared increasing the likelihood of even more leftover, wasted food supplies. Reports
of typical hospital waste indicate that 17% of the hospital
waste stream comes from food waste or 0.9 kg per patient
DISCUSSION: DOES STEAMPLICITY DELIVER?
Two Canadian hospitals have considerable experience with
Steamplicity, and data they have collected provide the
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S24 Healthcare Management Forum ● Forum Gestion des soins de sante´ – Fall/Automne 2012
basis for the discussion of the advantages and any
drawbacks to the Steamplicity system. NYGH, a 430-bed
acute care hospital in Toronto, implemented Steamplicity in
July 2009. Humber River Regional Hospital (HRRH) comprised
of three separate facilities with a total patient population of
545 beds implemented Steamplicity in September 2009.
Key determinants of patient satisfaction with meals (ie,
quality and taste of the food, freshly prepared, healthy
food, variety, choosing meals as close as possible to meal
service to better match appetite/preferences, and meal
served when patient is available to eat) have been addressed within the Steamplicity system, and patients are
responding positively not only to the food but also the
supportive role provided by the catering associates. NYGH
and HRRH patient satisfaction scores for the service provided and the degree of which their food preferences have
been respected have increased since the introduction of
Steamplicity as shown in Figure 3.
Healthier food is being served with Steamplicity as evidenced by the enhanced nutrient retention particularly of
vitamins made possible with microwave/pressure steam
cooking. The moisture naturally in the foods is adequate to
support the steam cooking as shown by Lassen and Ovensen.11 Table 1 shows the results of their comparison of
five different vegetables prepared with methods including
the microwave/steam Steamplicity method.
Meals are meeting expectations for quality and great
taste as evidenced by the significantly reduced number of
untouched trays (defined as trays still intact after meal
service) and the rarity of the Steamplicity food ordered by
patients so close to mealtime not being completely consumed. Further evidence comes from the decreased use of
nutrition supplements and meal replacements. Savings of
$20,000 in the past year have been identified at NYGH and
$25,040 at HRRH.
The bedside support provided by Catering Associates
through nine visits to each patient/day is not only bringing
value to patients who now better understand the menu
and appreciate the choices available, nursing is responding
positively. Meal related issues are far fewer and when these
arise, the Catering Associate is there to address. Precious
time is freed up for nursing to be delivering patient care.
Both HRRH and NYGH have summarized the value added
Figure 3. NYGH and HRRH patient satisfaction scores for the service provided and the degree of which their food preferences have been respected
have increased since the introduction of Steamplicity. (Note: 2012 scores are
first quarter only.) (Colour version of figure is available on-line).
Table 1. Percentage of vitamin C retention
boiled* Steamed Boiled†
Broccoli 80 75 70 46
Cauliflower 85 81 67 45
Potatoes 92 86 84 63
Corn 65 61 45 41
Peas 76 64 60 53
Information adapted from Lassen & Ovesen.11
*Water:vegetables ratio (w/w) 1:0.3, (except for broccoli, 1:0.5, (no
water was added to the potatoes).
†Water:vegetables ratio (w/w) 5:1 (except for broccoli, 7.5:1).
Table 2. HRRH and NYGH tracking of the Steamplicity impact
Pre-Steamplicity With Steamplicity
HRRH NYGH HRRH NYGH
Diet changes 52/meal 40/meal 0 4/meal
Late trays 50/meal 40/meal 3/meal 6/meal
Isolation trays Not
90 77 98 94
STEAMPLICITY: AN INNOVATIVE MEAL SYSTEM THAT DELIVERS
Healthcare Management Forum ● Forum Gestion des soins de sante´ – Fall/Automne 2012 S25
by Steamplicity during their first year of operations (Table
2). The significance of tracking diet changes and late trays
is that these meal issues reflect wasted food and nursing
time arranging replacements. Kingston General Hospital,
which implemented Steamplicity recently, also identified a
decrease in late trays by more than 50%.
Lessening the environmental impact of operating a hospital is desirable from a social responsibility and from a cost
perspective. To waste food is to waste precious resources.
Both HRRH and NYGH have made impressive headway in
reducing waste on several fronts with their move to Steamplicity. HRRH results after their first year of Steamplicity
implementation are displayed in Table 3 and clearly show
that Steamplicity delivers against expectations of significant waste reduction.
Significant reductions in electricity, gas, and water have been
recorded at HRRH. In Table 3, their tracking pre- and postSteamplicity shows dramatic improvements in their efforts to
lessen their use of these utilities. Electricity usage decreased
by 59%, gas by 84%, and water for dishwashing by 59%.
All waste from uneaten food on patient trays to food left
over after tray assembly in the previous system has been
dramatically reduced at both HRRH and NYGH. They no
longer stock beltlines with food for meal assembly, and
patients order what they want so close to meal time that
they know what they want to eat and only order what they
will eat. Less food is being served, fewer duplicate meals
are being created to address diet changes and late trays,
and far less food is being returned untouched on trays.
Table 3 shows details of the environmental impact resulting from the transition to Steamplicity at HRRH. The consulting firm Five Winds International (Guelph, ON, Canada)
undertook an independent analysis of the transition at
NYGH, and the methodology including factors for calculating utilities consumption and food waste were applied
during data collection and analysis at HRRH where this
group of three sites with 545 total beds transitioned to
Steamplicity. Primary and secondary data related to equipment usage, resource consumption, and food waste generation for both systems were collected. Production and
dishwashing equipment specifications, production and
dishwashing equipment hours of operation, dishwashing
product and water use, food waste generation (estimated
by the number of untouched entrées and assembled trays
that were never sent to the patient room), and only solid
waste from entrées were evaluated. The data from the
same month year over year were used (ie, re-therm system
from December 2008 vs the Steamplicity system in December
2009). The findings presented herein are specific to HRRH.
These findings are directional not definitive, meaning that
consumption values will vary from hospital to hospital. However, the calculations are an indication of the direction of
CONCLUSIONS: DOES STEAMPLICITY DELIVER?
Evidence is mounting that Steamplicity with the innovative
steam cooking technology, minimal kitchen/pantry equipment, food quality and extensive menu choice, the logistics
Table 3. HRRH: carbon footprint of the Retherm system and Steamplicity system*
Electricity Consumption† Tonne CO2e 70.29 29.28–29.53
658 kWh/patient bed 275 kWh/patient bed 259%
Natural gas Consumption‡ Tonne CO2e 1.65 0.26
1.34 m3/patient bed 0.21 m3/patient bed 284%
Water consumption 4.82 m3/patient bed 2.00 m3/patient bed 259%
Food waste§ Tonne CO2e 3.16 1.93
0.19 metric Ton
0.12 metric Ton
/patient bed 239%
Total Tonne CO
2e 75.09 31.47–31.72 258%
Carbon intensity Tonne CO2e 0.14 0.06 257%
Note: All calculations are provided by Anastassia Filimonova (Oil and Gas Analyst) at Trucost Plc, London, UK (http://www.trucost.com/default.asp).
*The total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon
†Based on the International Energy Agency conversion factor for Canada for electricity.
‡Based on UK DEFRA 2009 conversion factor for natural gas.
§Based on the carbon conversion factor for composted food waste.
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S26 Healthcare Management Forum ● Forum Gestion des soins de sante´ – Fall/Automne 2012
enabling hospitals just-in-time delivery, patients ordering
meals so close to mealtime, and the attentive service from
catering associates is making a difference in adding value
for patients while reducing waste for hospitals. Patient
satisfaction scores are confirmed to be consistently over
90%, more food that is served is actually being eaten,
nursing staff are much happier with food services, and they
report much greater satisfaction by the patients.
Barbara Collins, Chief Operating Officer at HRRH, has
high praise for Steamplicity. “The system is now fully in
place and we couldn’t be happier. In addition to more
satisfied patients, we’ve seen the system have a positive
impact on the HRRH staff as well. Nurses are happier; they
no longer have to participate in food service logistics such
as late trays and diet changes, and this has freed up time
for them which they have re-directed to patient care. Food
service employees are reporting improved morale due to
new found skills and greater empowerment as a result of
contributing directly to patient care and becoming part of
the care team.”
There are challenges to making Steamplicity work. On
everyone’s list is finding the space in patient care areas to
locate these vital pantries. Hospitals that have faced this
challenge have come up with creative solutions ranging
from the repurposing of storage space and lounge areas to
sharing space with ward staff in the staff supplies area.
Once there is an appreciation for how valuable it is to have
catering associates cooking fresh meals so close to patients,
priorities will change. Within hospital plans for repurposing
space, the much smaller kitchen footprint with Steamplicity
releases as much as 40% of the previous kitchen space to be
used within the hospital’s development plans.
Food cost is likely to increase because of the introduction of raw vegetables and the overall improved variety
and quality of the foods served. However, with patients
ordering only what they want to eat just before meal time
and the incidence of unused trays being reduced to only the
infrequent occurrence, less food needs to be ordered, inventoried, and prepared. So although the individual meal may
cost more, food service is only stocking and providing what
patients will eat. The supply and rotation of Steamplicity
meals does need to be managed effectively to ensure that
meals do not go past their fresh date of 6 days. With just-intime deliveries from the cuisine centre happening two to
three times weekly, excessive supplies are unnecessary, and
so the risk of unused Steamplicity meals is mitigated.
The attentive service provided by catering associates
also comes at a cost. However, food service personnel who
used to be in the kitchen, quite out of touch with what
patients wanted to eat and other meal-related needs, are
now on the wards, interacting multiple times each day
with every patient. This attentiveness to patient needs and
preferences pays off with patients eating better, thereby
benefitting from mealtime and the nourishment consumed. In fact, the catering associates become so familiar
with patients that the nursing team welcomes their patient
insights to the patient care team.
There will likely be concerns about microwave technology and the plastics used for meal packaging. However,
this technology is recognized as safe and is used extensively in most household kitchens today. The food service
friendly plastics are widely used by the public and are
increasingly valuable as a recycled material for many innovative consumer products.
In addition to addressing the day-to-day issues of hospital food service, for those with Steamplicity in place,
emergency response and pandemic plans are greatly aided
through the ease of meal preparation and distribution that
would be possible under such extreme conditions. Heating
the meal packages via microwaves could be accomplished
with little training of any new staff who would be assigned.
Other healthcare sectors including long-term care
homes, retirement homes, and Meals on Wheels programs
could find Steamplicity meals with the easy, fresh cooking
instructions and the exceptional meal quality an alternative to what is presently in place, especially for more specialized dietary prescriptions. In healthcare retail settings
offering a vending program, Steamplicity offers healthy,
tasty alternatives 24/7 to the offerings typically available
through these machines.
Steamplicity to date is showing great promise as an
innovative approach to hospital food service and could
very well be a breakthrough in the longstanding challenges of nourishing patients on their road to recovery and
discharge from Canadian hospitals. However, the Canadian
experience with Steamplicity is still in the early stages. With
two hospitals in operation for 3 years, three more hospitals
recently converted to Steamplicity, and five more in the
process of implementation in 2012, it is important for Morrison to be diligent in tracking important markers including
pre- and post-implementation patient satisfaction and waste
audits. Although satisfaction surveys and audits have not
been fully completed for the three new facilities, results are
showing a decrease in waste and an increase in satisfaction.
Another important criterion for success will be confirmation that this Steamplicity system does, in fact, deliver to
patients the nutrition they require keeping in mind that most
patients exhibit symptoms of malnutrition upon admission to
the hospital and their illness makes it challenging to eat
enough quantity of food to meet their heightened nutritional
needs. With patients choosing what they want to eat, are they
choosing enough food to meet their caloric and protein
requirements? Tracking nutritional value of the food consumed and determining that it is, in fact, nutritionally adequate will add tremendous confidence to the Steamplicity
The authors thank Ilona Jonus, BAA, RD, MBA, Vice President, Steamplicity and Innovation, Compass Group Canada
STEAMPLICITY: AN INNOVATIVE MEAL SYSTEM THAT DELIVERS
Healthcare Management Forum ● Forum Gestion des soins de sante´ – Fall/Automne 2012 S27
Healthcare, for aiding to this content in the collection of
key data on patient satisfaction and waste reduction.
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Dillon, McDonald, and Jonus
S28 Healthcare Management Forum ● Forum Gestion des soins de sante´ – Fall/Automne 2012
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