Impact of type, size and shape of plates on hospital patients' perceptions of the quality of meals and satisfaction with foodservices
Abstract Hospital meals are important for supporting nutrition goals and the overall hospital experience. The aim of this study was to assess if patients’ perceptions of quality attributes of hot meals were impacted by the type of plate on which the meal was served. Eligible patients selected from medical and/or surgical wards at a 929 bed acute care hospital were randomised to receive hot meals served on either ceramic or disposable plates at eight evening meals. Patients from a multi-centre trial of pre-packaged meals where re-thermalised meals were presented on a variety of colour and shaped disposable plates were included in a second phase. Patient assessment of meal quality was undertaken using the Meal Assessment Tool (MAT)(Hannan-Jones & Capra, 2017) with data collected by interview. In phase one, 137 eligible patients competed the MAT (response 46.8%), with results showing no significant difference in the rating of appearance, quality, expectations or satisfaction when meals were served on disposable or ceramic plates. In phase two data were collected from 6189 patients (response 47.4%). No practical difference in rating of meals was found in relation to colour and sectioning of plates, however a statistical but non-practical difference was found regarding plate shape, with meals served on oblong/rectangular plates rated more positively. Of 3078 comments made concerning the meals, 99 (3.2%) concerned the plates on which the meals were served. This study has shown that quality, appearance and taste of meals, rather than the serving ware are important to patients. Findings suggest that attending to other quality aspects of meals may be far more important than the plate itself, and deserve attention.
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