Spectrum Health embraces plant-forward, tech solutions

As part of its effort to adhere to Food as Medicine principles, Spectrum Health is focusing on providing plant forward menus to guests and patients. Its new patient menu coming in 2023 will increase the number of items available for the most restricted patient population by focusing on using fresh ingredients minimally processed much as possible. To promote healthy healing, the program will eliminate the use of fryers, as well as highly processed meats and cheeses, from patient menus, which will be plant forward by design, allowing patients to add small amounts of proteins. This increases nutrient density of the menu being served to patients by following the Mediterranean diet. There will also be a focus on the quality of the proteins being served, requiring them to be certified non-GMO and all natural.

In addition, Spectrum Health has added 24-hour unmanned automated micro-marts throughout its system and hybrid automated checkout lanes in its large cafeterias as the CBORD Symphony POS system allows it to set up retail locations that are strictly unmanned and automated through utilization of cashless payment methods. These locations operate 24/7 with minimal labor and the hybrid locations utilize the flexibility of the CBORD POS system to either staff registers at peak volumes or convert them into self-checkout during off peak or short staffing situations. The hybrid automation has also allowed the dining program to extend hours of operations for many locations that traditional would close after dinner. These operate as unmanned automated micro-marts during afterhours, making food service options possible for team members that previously did not have access.


Spectrum Health is focusing on providing plant forward menus to guests and patients.

Also on the high-tech front, Spectrum Health currently utilizes a fleet of 48 Aethon TUG delivery robots to assist with the movement of patient meals, supplies and lab specimens around its two largest hospitals. This has allowed the nutrition services team to operate more efficiently in short staffing situation by targeting labor to the areas of greater impact as the TUGs have reduced the non-productive travel time to and from the patient units, keeping team members on the patient units during peak meal periods.

In-process for 2022 are meal assembly robots, beginning with a pilot using Dexai Robotics’ Alfred robot starting in September. Robotic meal assemble technology will allow the program to enhance the labor it currently has and increase output as the autonomous robots produce grab and go salad and grain bowl in the background of the culinary team’s day, requiring very minimal labor from the team. This will allow the program to focus culinary labor on higher impact areas, increasing efficiency, and it is projecting an overall gain of 38% additional output for the same amount of labor for an eight-hour shift while also evaluating the technology for ordering of custom made-to-order salads at the salad bars from app based or kiosk-based ordering platforms.

Spectrum Health is also in the in-process of implementing the CBORD GET mobile ordering app for team members that is scheduled to go live in December. As staffing is an issue in all areas of healthcare, team members are experiencing higher stress levels and less time to enjoy a break, so the application will allow them to pre-order meals and beverages for pick up, increasing the amount of time they can enjoy their breaks and take a moment and relax away from the high stress environments. The application also integrates with the CBORD Symphony POS system to allow for staff members to use their badges to dine.

Also planned to be deployed is the CBORD NETmenu Nutrition Service Suite platform that will integrate the patient and retail menus into one managed database, allowing teams to manage food service from one central platform that integrates with the room service software, point of sale and mobile ordering system to allow for more efficient management of food service operations.

Also, the system is expanding food service operations into business centers, outpatient ambulatory locations and shared service locations. This is through the utilization of automated micro-marts into these locations as it has found that guests and team members prefer these automated kiosks over traditional vendor machines. The outlets provide higher quality, fresher foods and healthier beverage options for guests and staff over the candy bars, soda, and chips traditionally offered by vending.

The dining program is also seeing a change in service models for locations that were closed during COVID. It has converted some previously staffed retail operations to 24/7 automated micro-marts, where it was able to remove the limitation posed by staff shortages to provide foodservice with increase the hours of operations. This change has allowed team members more access to food and nutrition through-out their shifts when it is more convenient to their workflows and has also increased offering to third shift team members who historically have had limited choices.