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Mercy Medical Center Combats Food-related Costs by Outsourcing Food Services

Mar 29, 2016 10:15AM ● By MED Magazine

To combat high food and labor costs, waste, and inventory, Mercy Medical Center - Des Moines was looking for an outsourcing partner to help transform their food service department to be more efficient, and profitable as well as socially and environmentally responsible. By partnering with a food and nutrition service, they were able to revamp the food program with more efficient operations, new menu options, retail opportunities, and improved quality.


“Patients may not always know how good their medical care was, but they know how good their food was.” - Mr. Ron Muecke, Mercy Medical Center - Des Moines, Vice President Facilities & Support Service


Mercy Medical Center – Des Moines operates four not-for-profit Catholic hospital campuses, with a total of 875 beds, along with more than 20 additional facilities that house more than 50 primary care, pediatric, internal medicine and specialty clinics.


Founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1893, Mercy Medical Center - Des Moines is the longest continually- operating hospital in Des Moines and is also one of the largest employers in the state - with about 7,000 employees and a medical staff of more than 1,000 physicians and allied health associates. Mercy Medical Center - Des Moines is a member of Mercy Health Network and is a part of Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), a national nonprofit health organization with headquarters in Englewood, Colo. The faith-based system operates in 19 states and includes 105 hospitals and multiple other facilities and services.




Like many healthcare facilities, Mercy was facing several challenges when it came to its food service department. Food and labor costs, waste, and inventory were high, while quality and customer satisfaction were low.


Retail areas were underutilized; a newly implemented room service program was significantly over budget; and the department director resigned.


The medical center was ready for a change! They wanted to increase department productivity, create a more positive work environment, reduce food and supply expenses, and improve the new room service program with efficient software and operations. They wanted to explore new retail opportunities to help generate additional revenue, and wanted to provide an optimal healing environment that included being more environmentally friendly, socially responsible, and community involved.


When neither in-house management nor their existing service provider could meet their goals, Mercy turned to ABM Healthcare Support Services. ABM’s experience and expertise in culinary management, patient support, nutrition services, and retail dining was ideal to help them implement the strategic changes they sought.





ABM worked with the hospital to determine the best way to transition and upgrade the food & nutrition program with maximum impact and minimal disruption. As part of the solution, ABM introduced new best practice processes and programs, state-of-the-art technology, and customer service training.


The management change transformed the department, maximizing productivity through lean and efficient operations. ABM was able to reduce both the costs and the number of Full-time Equivalent (FTE) staff with little or no elimination of services.


After facilitating a move to Mercy West Lakes’ facility – the first hospital in Iowa to receive LEED certification – ABM was able to increase energy efficiency, decrease operating expenses, and introduce a waste recycling program.


ABM revamped Mercy’s retail food program by implementing innovative new menu options, fun promotions, and new signage – all with no additional staffing or costs. Also, ABM refreshed the room service menu to improve satisfaction while decreasing costs. When Mercy accepted the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) challenge – part of Michelle Obama’s initiative to combat obesity – they committed to providing healthier food and beverage choices throughout the medical center. Although they embraced the initiative, they didn’t realize the associated costs and issues involved in complying with the strict criteria. With ABM’s help, Mercy has become a champion for the program, leading the country with more than 85% compliance and extending its commitment to a fourth year.


To strengthen Mercy’s partnership within the community, ABM has helped the medical center participate in several important volunteer missions including providing nearly 500 mobile meals to the city of Des Moines on Christmas day.




With ABM, Mercy successfully managed operations under budget, reduced waste, and exceeded very ambitious benchmarks. They have also increased revenues and improved quality while reducing expenses.


The upgraded programs and menus have also allowed them to increase overall satisfaction by providing a better dining experience for patients, guests, and staff.

Mercy experienced several benefits through its partnership with ABM including:


• Decreased FTEs by 25%

• Reduced inventory by almost half

• Reduced food waste by 50%

• Increased revenue from $2.65M to $2.9M

• Improved Catholic Health Initiatives purchasing compliance to 93%, increasing discounts and rebates

• Enhanced Partnership for a Healthier America compliance to 85%

• Improved Solucient performance to the 8th percentile


As the go-to food & nutrition services partner in the healthcare industry, ABM was able to assess Mercy’s needs and goals with a customized plan that provided maximum value and allowed them to focus more on serving the ultimate patient experience while delivering the highest standard of care.

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