Development and implementation of a pictorial hospital food menu

Miss Claire Matthews1, Miss Sarah Coletti1, Ms Nadine Lawson1

1Cabrini Health, Malvern, Australia

People have a distinctly better memory for pictures than for words, known as the picture superiority effect. Current practice at a private hospital involves verbal meal ordering using an electronic menu management system without pictures. Electronic self-ordering which includes pictures increases energy and protein intake, decreases plate wastage and improves patient meal experience. However, it is unclear if these same outcomes are achieved using a hard copy pictorial menu.

To investigate the use of a pictorial menu to improve patient and staff experience; and determine if this tool improves ease of meal ordering, patient energy and protein intake, and decreases plate wastage.

An observational point prevalence study was undertaken in October 2019 and April 2020 on two wards. Meal intake data was collected using a visual six point scale. Patients and staff were surveyed. Excel and SPSS was used for statistical analysis.

Introduction of the pictorial menu increased patients’ confidence in knowledge of their order by 13.7% (p=0.021). The appearance of meals were more likely to meet patients’ expectations (p=<0.001), and patients were more likely to feel they received assistance they required (p=0.002). There was no significant change in patients’ energy and protein intake. Staff identified pictorial menus as helpful to patients, time efficient, and improved patients’ knowledge of the appearance of meals but were heavy and hard to hold.

Pictorial menus improved patient experience and had mostly positive staff feedback but did not alter patient’s nutritional intake or decrease plate wastage.


Claire Matthews is the sole full time Food Service Dietitian at Cabrini Health, a private healthcare organisation in Victoria, Australia. She has been working closely with the Food Services department across the five Cabrini campuses for the past four years. Her role involves menu development and review, managing Delegate the electronic menu management system, allergen identification and documentation, university student supervision and policy development. Claire is interested in continuing to grow her research skills and plans to publish a research paper in the near future.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Recent Comments