A healthy food supply leads to higher customer and employee satisfaction in healthcare and hospitality

Tholen – Consumers are easily tempted to make unhealthy food choices. Steering towards healthy choice or limiting freedom of choice is an area where companies prefer not to get involved. Research has now shown that consumers actually appreciate this guidance. Healthy and sustainable food even increased customer satisfaction. “It’s a huge trigger for behavior change,” he says Mary Meeusen, project manager of the research. But knowledge and time are seen as bottlenecks to putting more vegetables on the menu.

Healthy and sustainable are in demand
The researchers ensured that more healthy and sustainable food was offered in a controlled environment, such as a hospital, catering or daycare. The effect of this was positive, for the guests, but also for the employees. “This is an important step in changing consumer behaviour. For a different consumption pattern, it is very important that the alternative is better. We have seen that consumers want it and appreciate that the range is healthier,” says Marieke Meeusen, who has led the research. “Higher customer satisfaction is also important because both healthcare staff and staff working in the restaurant industry derive great satisfaction from making their guests and customers happy. This therefore also motivates the staff, and finally higher customer satisfaction is of course important for the continuity of the business, which stands or falls with satisfied customers.”

Make it easy
A company that offers the healthy and sustainable choice is expected to score better and employees are also motivated to get started, as seen in most cases. However, the implementation proves difficult. “It’s about wanting, knowing and being able to. In practice, we see that these three elements must all be at a sufficient level. If one of the three elements is not (sufficiently) present, the change will not succeed,” says Marieke. Both in the literature and on the basis of the practical cases, the researchers conclude that “being able” is especially a bottleneck. Marieke: “Motivation and knowledge are growing, but the employees feel inadequate in their ability to implement the changes. This is also where the barrier to further implementation lies.”

Affordability is one of the main factors hindering the provision of healthy and sustainable food. There is also the possibility that the fresh produce sector can come up with solutions. “Make things a little easier for food providers and inspire them to make cauliflower more exciting and tastier,” advises Marieke. “The kitchen staff do not always have sufficient skills to prepare tasty, healthy and sustainable food. In the training courses for chefs (ROCs) so far much attention has been paid to the preparation of meat; vegetables received less attention and they are less able to vary and experiment with them, while much more is possible with vegetables.”

In addition, lack of time and capacity is a frequently heard bottleneck. “We hear from the practical stories that it often takes longer to prepare healthy and sustainable food. A common example is cutting fruit and vegetables. Orientation about new developments at suppliers of fruit and vegetables can help. Product development and innovation are underway to meet this need. For example, packages of cut and pre-processed vegetables are being developed that save time and meet the need for healthy, tasty and easy. Solutions can therefore be found in outsourcing to others”, concludes Marieke.

The research “Implementation of nutrition interventions in intramural care institutions and catering” was carried out in a public-private partnership (OPP) between a consortium of companies and research institutions (Greendish, Louis Bolk Institute, NH Stenden Hogeschool, Breda University of Applied Sciences and Wageningen University & Research ). The research is partly made possible by funds from the public through Top Sector Agri & Food.

Click here for more information and background on the research.
Click here for the research report.

For more information:
Wageningen University & Research
Marieke Meeusen-van Onna
T: +31 (0)70 335 83 40

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