‘Happy to be here’: Chris Grauer-Hirt Spreads Positivity Through Food and Nutrition Services


After nearly 25 years with UI Health Care, Chris Grauer-Hirt still wakes up excited about working at 4 a.m. and doesn’t leave until she has nothing more to do at the end of the day. .

Early mornings and late nights don’t bother Grauer-Hirt, deputy director of retail and catering for Food and Nutrition Services (FNS), who oversees the Fountain Dining Room, Marketplace and Compass Express.

Chris Grauer-Hirt, Assistant Retail and Restaurant Manager for Food and Nutrition Services

“I’ve always been the type of person who, if I can do a job well, satisfies me,” she says. “I make a list of the things I want to accomplish and then just checking it makes me feel good. “

Cultivate a positive environment

One of the main aspects of Grauer-Hirt’s job is to find new ways to brighten the day for employees, patients and others at the hospital.

“The staff here are great, but they probably have visitors or patients who are probably having a bad day,” she says. “So they can’t wait to eat and go down to the cafeteria.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic has not come without challenges, Grauer-Hirt says it has also been an opportunity for change and innovation through new ways of encouraging people. The cafeteria has added menu options, including the fan-favorite build-it-yourself station, and has decorated some of its under-utilized spaces.

“We built some holiday, winter-themed scenes and positive lyrics for the walls, just to try to motivate people during a really tough time,” she says.

The FNS department provides services to various patient populations and specialized units, in several cafeterias and dining rooms, and by organizing numerous hospital events.

The environment in cafeterias and other SNSF sites is friendly and welcoming, says Grauer-Hirt, so people want to come and visit.

“The FNS is important to the hospital because we have so many different facets, whether it’s in patient care, or in the staff and employees who are here; whether it’s events we organize or just daily meetings or even conferences and the like, ”she says. “We have so many different roles, and I think that’s really essential for this hospital.”

Team work

Grauer-Hirt says most of the work she does wouldn’t be possible without the dedication of her colleagues and employees.

“I couldn’t get through the day without the great team I have,” she said.

Grauer-Hirt also encourages them to set small goals, like how many tacos to sell per day, to make bigger changes and be more efficient overall.

“I think setting goals helps boost our employee engagement; they want to do their best. They want to be successful, ”she said.

For Grauer-Hirt, the interaction with his colleagues and employees is really important to envision new ideas and perspectives and to think about change.

“I want to be someone who leads by example,” she says. “If my employees see that I’m taking new initiatives and getting excited about the things that are happening, that will hopefully motivate them to do the same and be happy to be here.

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