Proof that hospital catering can be both progressive and profitable is evident in the catering department at Aberdeen's Royal Infirmary.
It caters for 1,013 patients three times per day and provides an individual menu for each patient every mealtime.
The menu runs on a 28-day cycle and the management has found that the use of such menus is an ideal way to communicate with patients.
The main thrust of this communication is to raise awareness on healthy menu options by including daily snippets of dietary advice collated by the catering manager, Michael Munro, after consultations with the hospital's dieticians.
This advice includes information on calorie intake and snippets on how to cut down on saturated fat, reduce sugar and increase dietary fibre.
The management believes this is a basic, simple and inexpensive method of educating patients on alternative and more beneficial eating habits. All the information complies with the Aberdeen Royal Hospitals NHS Trust's food policy.
Keeping commercial objectives in their sights, the management has also introduced advertising slots on to the menus. This generates about £1,000 a year and allows local companies and food suppliers access to a captive audience.
Those who advertise range from residential nursing homes to soft drinks and beverage suppliers.
Income received is then ploughed back into the trust and indirectly helps cover certain small costs within the catering department, such as menu production.
Also at the hospital, function suites are hired out for weddings and other social events while small businesses use certain rooms for their meetings and conferences. According to Munro, these suites allow a venue for small outfits that would otherwise be unable to afford the fee for renting a large conference space. Last year this wing of the hospital's activities generated £70,000.
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