ANFP Practice Standards: Measuring Meal Production & Calculating Meal Equivalents
Professional Standards of Practice serve as the basis for quality dietetic practice for dietary managers. The Standards published here provide guidelines for certified dietary managers to use when measuring meal production and calculating meal equivalents.
Other Practice Standards
Last Updated January 2010
During these economic times, are you being challenged to reduce your staff to combat increasing healthcare costs? Are you prepared to provide staff level information to your supervisor to justify your employee’s efficiency? This information should be at your fingertips at all times to demonstrate your lean focus. As you assess the efficiency of your department, ask and answer these questions: 1) What food cost data will be used to determine actual patient/client meals served: patient/client trays, Meals on Wheels, etc. 2) What food cost data will be used to determine a meal equivalent for non-patient/client meals: cafeteria, floor stock, catering from outside groups, staff, supplements? 3) Which labor hours will be used in the calculation of meal productivity: all staff involved in producing meals, management staff, clinical dietetics staff, support staff?
Several calculations are used in the industry to measure meal productivity:
1. Meals per labor hour—This is calculated by dividing the total meals served by the total number of labor hours:
Total meals served / Total number of labor hours
2. Minutes per meal—This is calculated by dividing the total labor hours X 60 minutes by the total number of meals:
Total labor hours X 60 minutes / Total meals served
3. Labor hours per meal—This is calculated by dividing the total labor hours per meal by the total meals served:
Total labor hours / Total meals served
Once you have determined your method of measuring productivity, you’ll want to compare it to an industry standard. Dietary Managers Association surveyed its membership in late 2009 to determine which of the above calculations were used in their facilities and what standard they used. The results are in the chart below.
Chart represents DMA survey results as compared to industry averages (from Sneed and Dresse, 1989)
|LTC/CCRC*||Hospital||School Foodservice||Corrections||Sneed and Dresse, 1989|
|Meals Per Labor Hour||6-12||6-12||12-18||6||3.5-5.5|
|Minutes Per Meal||18||18||22||22||NA|
|Labor Hours Per Meal||0.3||0.19-0.3||0.19-0.29|
* Results from facilities that used a standard; the majority of the LTC/CCRC (long-term care/continuing care retirement community) survey respondents did not use any standard.
Example for XYZ Long-Term Care Facility
First, answer the questions asked in the beginning paragraph above:
A. What food cost data will be used to determine actual patient/client meals served: patient/client trays, Meals on Wheels, etc.? Patient/client trays, Meals on Wheels; document an actual count of these meals monthly.
• Actual meals for XYZ facility for October:
B. What food cost data will be used to determine a meal equivalent for non-patient/client meals: cafeteria, floor stock, catering from outside groups, staff, supplements? Cafeteria, floor stock, catering from outside groups, staff meals, tube feedings; use a market basket price cost for a typical cafeteria meal. Cost out floor stock, tube feedings, catering, and cafeteria costs and divide by the market basket price to determine meal equivalents. Add this to the count of actual meals served from A above.
• Meal equivalents for XYZ facility for October:
• 9,300 meals + 4,500 meals = 13,800 total meals/ meal equivalents served in October
C. Which labor hours will be used in the calculation of meal productivity: all staff involved in producing meals, management staff, clinical dietetics staff, and support staff? All staff involved in producing meals, certified dietary manager, consulting dietitian; total all of the hours for the production staff, CDM, and consulting dietitian.
• Total hours = 1,975
Insert these numbers into the formulas (1-3 above) to determine:
1. Meals per labor hour: 13,800 / 1,975 = 7 meals per labor hour
2. Minutes per meal: 1,975 x 60 minutes / 13,800 = 9 minutes per meal
3. Labor hours per meal: 1,975 / 13,800 = .14 labor hours per meal
Work with your facility to apply the Professional Practice Standard that follows.
The certified dietary manager (CDM) assures that productivity for patient/client services is measured and compared to a standard productivity equivalent.
1.1 CDM will work with management staff and fiscal staff to select a method for measuring meal production (see examples within this article).
1.2 CDM will work with management staff and fiscal staff to determine which staff will be included in total hours for selected productivity standard. (Examples: all food production staff, support staff, food management staff, clinical management staff)
1.3 CDM will work with management staff and fiscal staff to determine what will be used to calculate meal equivalents. (Examples: using a market basket* for café/catering/guest meals, staff meals; using a standard for nourishments and/or tube feedings, such as three nourishments are equivalent to one meal.)
1.4 Actual meals are counted using a standardized method(see sample form provided).
- Count every tray delivered for patients/clients.
- Count every meal delivered for Meals on Wheels.
- Count every meal delivered for medical doctors.
1.5 Total actual meals/trays served are recorded on a weekly productivity form by category (see sample form provided).
1.6 Meal equivalents (as determined in 1.4 above) are counted.
1.7 Total meal equivalents are recorded on a weekly productivity form (see sample form provided).
1.8 Labor hours are tracked for foodservice personnel (as determined in 1.2 above) and recorded on the productivity form.
1.9 Meals per labor hour, minutes per meal, or labor hours per meal are determined for patient/client and nonpatient/ client services.
* Market basket (in 1.3 above) is the term for a typical meal cost, such as
4 oz. chicken breast, starch, vegetable, fruit, beverage, dessert.
1.1 CDM prepares a written summary of meal production and meal equivalents and compares them to facility standard (see worksheet provided).
1.2 CDM follows up on decreases in productivity by checking variances in the patient/client meals, non-patient/client meals, meal equivalents.
1.3 CDM designates an employee trained in these procedures to act in their absence.
1.4 CDM measures meal production to assist in calculating FTE (full-time equivalent) needs.
Summing it Up
These guidelines offer help for CDM, CFPPs responsible for measuring meal production and calculating meal equivalents. Refer to them as needed.
By Susan Davis Allen, MS, RD, CHE
Updated in 2010
Susan Davis Allen, MS, RD, CHE is Director of Institutional Advancement at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College in Fennimore, WI. She serves as an advisor to the Certifying Board for Dietary Managers and has authored many publications for ANFP and other professional groups.
1. R. Puckett, Food Service Manual for Health Care Institutions, Josey-Bass, 2004, pg. 160.
2. Dietary Managers Association Education Survey Results, 2009.