Meal-ordering systems are an important aspect of hospital food services, informing patients of the available menu choices and supporting the collection of meal orders. Although several meal-ordering systems are used in hospitals, there has been limited research into patients' experience of these systems. Aim To explore patients' experience of written, spoken and visual menus in the acute hospital setting. Method Ten patients from a tertiary teaching hospital were asked to evaluate three meal-ordering systems, which were randomly allocated to them. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to gain an understanding of the patients' experience of meal-ordering systems. Findings The type and quality of food provided, the importance of information, the characteristics of the menu monitor, and the meal-ordering process were identified as important factors in enhancing patient satisfaction with hospital food services, regardless of the meal-ordering system used. Conclusion Patients place a high value on the quality of hospital food, and hospital food service departments should engage with patients when reviewing and designing menus. Healthcare organisations should also consider implementing spoken or visual menus to complement existing strategies to enhance patient satisfaction with hospital food services.
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