Let’s play a quick word association game. When I say healthcare what’s the first word that comes to mind? (I’ll wait for a second before continuing.)

I bet lots of terms came to mind: hospital, insurance, illness and the pie-eyed optimists may have even come up with wellness. But how about hospitality? Did that term come to mind for anyone? Well it should, particularly when it comes to healthcare foodservice.

This month’s issue focuses plenty on healthcare foodservice and in reviewing the various articles, the term hospitality kept jumping off the page. I guess that’s due, in part, to the fact that in few people’s minds, the terms healthcare and hospitality rarely go together. But according to Reese’s old television commercials, people used to say the same about chocolate and peanut butter and that combination continues to flourish. So perhaps it’s time to take a fresh look at the pairing of healthcare and hospitality because foodservice operators across the country are doing just that.

Take, for example, senior living facilities. The foodservice options available at these facilities are more dynamic than ever before. The reasons for change in this segment are many, but two really stand out. First, the competition in this segment has never been higher. Let’s face facts: The American population continues to age and quickly. And senior living is big business for the companies operating in this segment. Second, today’s seniors approach their golden years with a different mindset from previous generations. While it may make sense for them to transition to a senior living environment for various personal reasons, they don’t want to compromise their lifestyles. Today’s seniors arrive on campus more tech-savvy than previous generations, used to varied dining options and very connected to family and friends. And they rightfully don’t want to give up anything.

As a result, savvy senior care foodservice operators continue to get creative and downright hospitable. This includes chef-driven menus, diverse dining venues such as fast-casual cafes and even pubs, as well as hosting special events such as holiday brunches and the ability to host family and friends.

Of course, nothing’s more hospitable in a healthcare setting than being able to order what you would like to eat when you would like to eat it. And room service remains one of the more sought-after ways to deliver this form of hospitality. The successful players in this segment share some similar traits that go beyond the menu, such as commercial kitchens designed and equipped for restaurant-style cooking to order and, of course, high-touch service.

Indeed, healthcare was once the butt of many a foodservice joke, but those days are long gone. Instead, this segment now serves as a best in class example of how healthcare and hospitality can be a potent recipe for success.

Similar to healthcare foodservice, ventless foodservice equipment represents a deep and developing topic. So much so, in fact, that we’ve decided to build upon last month’s piece in the upcoming October issue. Look for a few ideas as to how foodservice operators can successfully deploy this emerging technology and make informed decisions when deciding whether or not to use ventless equipment.