Case study 2 February 2020

Watford General Hospital Retail Catering – provision of fresh, healthy food for staff and visitors


NHS England is clear in its objectives to encourage healthier eating amongst its workforce and wider population and is robust in demanding NHS service providers deliver accordingly.   

Watford General Hospital is at the heart of the West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust’s acute emergency services. It provides specialist emergency facilities (such as intensive care), elective care for higher risk patients along with a full range of outpatient and diagnostic services. There are approximately 600 beds and nine operating theatres.

In such a critical, high volume operation, the provision of fresh, healthy food for staff and visitors is no small challenge.

One of the Trust’s key requirements when awarding the contract to Mitie was an improvement and upgrade of their retail catering service which would:

  • Create a modern and contemporary restaurant and coffee shop for staff and visitors
  • Introduce a new brand identity
  • Promote healthier items
  • Offer variety for customers
  • Encompass CQUIN targets


Key to a successful hospital retail catering service is understanding the consumer. Hospital visits can be very stressful, so providing a familiar reference point in a sometimes-unfamiliar environment is extremely important. To address this, we created a flagship restaurant brand, ‘The Dining Room’, which is designed to be much more than just a name above a door. ‘The Dining Room’ offers great tasting food in a great looking environment, which would not look out of place on the high street. We strive to maintain the look and feel of an independent brand but more importantly, to recognise our customer-need for nourishment; emotionally, mentally and physically.

  • Our vision: To provide great tasting food in a great looking environment
  • Our values: To promote healthy dishes wherever possible, to provide choice and variety, to inform customers about our food and their food choices and to ensure that EVERYONE is catered for.
  • Our beliefs – we believe in thinking differently and our attitude to our food is reflected in how we cook, serve and present our dishes.

By investing in the facilities and improving the infrastructure, we delivered a totally refurbished dining facility featuring a theatre bar, coffee shop, named “All Good Coffee Co.”, a terrace and a dedicated seating area exclusive to staff. 

The Dining Room and All Good Coffee Co. brands meet the demands of a modern healthcare retail environment; with a range of ‘pop-up’ food concepts. These offerings help to ensure that our customers enjoy real variety and choice; in keeping with what they would expect to find on the high street.  This strategy also helps to ensure our menus remain current, geographically flexible and very adaptable in responding to and embracing contemporary food.

To reduce queueing at the main tills during busy periods, we introduced a Wi-Fi enabled handheld till; this is a tablet device with a built-in card reader which allows a member of our team to speed up customer flow by processing transactions for any customers waiting in the queue who wish to pay by card.        

We also in introduced a self-scanning till point, just for the meal-deal items, allowing customers to ‘grab and go pay’.

Our highly skilled chefs take real pride in what they do and hold regular chef forums to allow our teams to get together and share best practice and recipe ideas, whilst keeping up with modern trends, to look for inspiration not just on the high street but in the wider culinary world. 

We believe in sustainability and ethical sourcing, we are committed to Red Tractor produce and MSC sustainable fish. We recognise the impact we have on the environment and we take our responsibilities very seriously, from sourcing the right produce and understanding the origin of our food, to how we dispose of our waste.

We are committed to healthier catering for staff, visitors and patients. Compliance with the CQUIN standards is integral to our everyday operations in the healthcare sector. We firmly believe that the CQUIN Governmental buying standards and guidelines which underpin this initiative, are an excellent way to deliver high-quality, healthier and smarter catering services within hospitals.

Engagement with our customers goes beyond interaction at the till or counter. We know that market testing of new initiatives and understanding how they have been received is critical. We have electronic feedback points to obtain on the spot feedback and any comments.  Feedback is then collated acted upon.


Mitie’s work at Watford General Hospital now includes fully-managed FM services provided by a dedicated team of 400 colleagues, 20 of whom form our retail catering team.

We are constantly looking for innovative ways to increase footfall and sales as we continue to develop the services to offer the best commercial return whilst benefiting staff, visitors and the community.

New opportunities and outlets are a potential for the future, as the Trust continues to develop and refine its long-term estates strategy.

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