Hospital cafeteria receives major upgrade

New tables, chairs, flooring and paint were recently installed at the Androscoggin Valley Hospital's cafeteria as part of a major upgrade that has been in the works for several years. (WILLIAM CARROLL PHOTO)

BERLIN — Androscoggin Valley Hospital’s cafeteria has a new modern look thanks to recent renovations designed to give staff, patients and the public a more restaurant-type experience.

According to AVH’s Director of Food and Environmental Services Brian Inkell, the renovations on the cafeteria were planned before he came on board three years ago, but fall in line with the changes he has made to the quality of food services offered by hospital.

Those coming to the recently renovated cafeteria will see all new booths, tables, flooring and paint, which were meant to modernize and update the look of the cafeteria. Inkell said the hospital is also anticipating additional upgrades in June, which will include an entirely new serving counter, which will include a more efficient serving line for patients to ensure that patients can get their food hotter and more quickly than they may have previously experienced.

The changes go along with changes Inkell made to the menus and food availability of the cafeteria over the last three years. Inkell said that when he came on board the hospital was running a traditional food-service model and he sought to bring more of a restaurant vibe to the facility. Inkell has years of experience in the restaurant industry as he worked in the hotel food industry for 20 years before coming to AVH, most recently at the Omni Mt. Washington Hotel.

Unlike in the past, when the hospital provided mostly pre-prepared and frozen food items, Inkell said the hospital now makes 90 percent of its menu items from scratch. The menu has also been completely updated by Inkell, who said he has brand new items each week. The cafeteria also uses fresh vegetables and protein items including fresh fish, poultry, pork and beef instead of frozen items, as were used in the past. The hospital has even instituted its own garden where it grows its own vegetables.

The daily menus include a vegetarian option and usually include as many as four different potential entrees, which Inkell said are designed with something for everyone.

Inkell said the response to the upgraded menu changes has been extremely positive.

“The staff and public loves it,” he said.

The cafeteria also offers a la carte menu options for patients and the cafeteria also has upgraded its purchasing and ordering options with a self-checkout stand as well as a mobile ordering app.

In addition to lunch and dinner option, the hospital also offers freshly baked goods. Inkell said the hospital has a pastry chef, a lead chef and four preparation/regular cooks on staff to provide a variety of food options for diners.

The food offerings are not just available for staff and patients, but can also be utilized by the public at large and Inkell said the hospital welcomes members of the public to come in and dine at the hospital. For convenience, the cafeteria even has grab-and-go options and provides free fresh coffee and fruit options in the morning.

Inkell said he is pleased with the changes and that he couldn’t have done everything he has been able to accomplish without the strong support of the hospital administration.

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