NU Partners with Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center to Develop New Food Service Experience

March 25, 2014  |  by Michael Freedman

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    Rendering of the new café bistro that will replace Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center's outdated cafeteria.

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    Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., Niagara University president

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    Joseph A. Ruffolo, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center’s president and CEO

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    Gary D. Praetzel, Ph.D, dean of NU’s College of Hospitality and Tourism Management

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    Michael A. Mistriner, principal, Cannon Design

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    Dr. Praetzel and Father Maher

Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center is joining forces with Niagara University to deliver an exciting new food service experience for hospital visitors, staff, students and volunteers.

The Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., D.Min, president of NU, and Joseph A. Ruffolo, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center’s president and CEO, announced that the university’s College of Hospitality and Tourism Management is working with Memorial and Cannon Design to create a modern café bistro that will replace the hospital’s outdated cafeteria.

The yet-to-be-named bistro will be designed to improve workflow and enhance the customer experience while serving a variety of new menu choices in a comfortable, modern setting.  The College of Hospitality and Tourism Management also will work with Memorial to introduce current best practices in customer service to the new facility.

“This new program will benefit our students by giving them hands-on opportunities to apply what they’ve learned in class to an operational facility that serves a tremendously diverse customer population,” said Father Maher. “In turn, Memorial will have an opportunity to take advantage of some of the latest research into food service and customer service best practices. This collaboration speaks to our Vincentian mission by supporting service-learning activities in which students reach out with compassion to serve people’s basic needs. This partnership is embodies the eternal values of St. Vincent de Paul, combining the heart of a servant with a commitment to excellence in all that we do.”

“It’s no small point that the word hospital is squarely within the composition of the word hospitality. Therefore, the knowledge and expertise we will gain from Niagara’s College of Hospitality and Tourism Management will be priceless,” Ruffolo said.

“The partnership with Niagara’s hospitality program is already paying dividends in the redesign of our retail food space, including reconfiguring the layout to provide a more efficient workflow and improve the customer experience. This will create a more attractive dining environment for employees and visitors alike,” he added.

Gary D. Praetzel, Ph.D, dean of Niagara’s College of Hospitality and Tourism Management, said that, in addition, the university will identify or develop a customer service curriculum and help train Memorial staff in that curriculum.

“Memorial Medical Center has truly transformed itself,” said Dr. Praetzel. “You see and feel the difference when you immediately enter the hospital. This is a cutting-edge community resource transforming the quality of life in this neighborhood and our entire region and we are proud to be contributing to the overall quality of the experience delivered by Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.”

“Cannon Design is excited about this opportunity to work with Niagara University’s College of Hospitality and Tourism Management to completely transform the food service and social experience at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center. We believe hospital visitors, staff members and volunteers will be very pleased with the result,” said Michael A. Mistriner, principal, Cannon Design.

Niagara University and Memorial Medical Center also announced they will be collaborating on an effort that will focus on improving the patient experience.

Like all hospitals in the United States, Memorial is graded by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on their Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores. The scores, which are compiled from patient surveys, allow objective and meaningful comparisons of hospitals on topics that are important to consumers.

“The university will develop an incentive program for hospital staff to help them understand the importance of favorable HCAHPS scores, which can impact government payments, and work with Memorial to promote a better understanding of overall patient satisfaction with regular progress updates,” Dr. Praetzel said. “We will then train hospital personnel in current customer service best practices designed to help improve Memorial’s HCAHPS scores.”

Ruffolo said this type of input from non-healthcare professionals will bring a whole new dimension to the medical center’s understanding of the way patients perceive the quality of the care they receive.

“Niagara students and staff will look at patient satisfaction from the standpoint of the healthcare consumer. That perspective combined with the expertise the university brings will benefit our patients and their families in a very meaningful and positive way,” he said.

Ruffolo noted that the new initiatives will positively impact local workforce development by expanding internship opportunities in career areas that are important to a healthcare industry that is increasingly focused on patient and customer satisfaction.

“In addition to patient care, medical centers offer careers in care coordination, care management, social work, patient navigation, information technology and many other areas,” Ruffolo said. “We believe there will be a number of other opportunities to help Niagara University students prepare to enter the work force.”

Memorial Medical Center and Niagara University are longtime partners in community service efforts such as ReNU Niagara, the university’s partnership with community-based organizations to build residential and organizational capacity in Niagara Falls and surrounding areas, and its Community Outreach Partnership Center (COPC) initiative.

In addition, Niagara students volunteer and intern at Memorial each year to fulfill community service and academic requirements.

“This expansion of our relationship is a natural next step,” Ruffolo said. “Niagara University and Memorial Medical Center are mission driven, community-focused organizations that share the same service values and the same commitment to making our region a better place to live and work. We are excited about these initiatives and the positive impact they will make.”