Southern District Health Board's head has acknowledged there are problems with Dunedin hospital's meals.
After commercial operator Compass took over the hospital's kitchens in February, 25 people have formally complained, mostly about the food's taste, appearance and temperature.
The move is expected to save $6.9 million over 15 years.
Southern DHB chief executive Carole Heatly said she was very concerned about the level of complaints from patients.
Ms Heatly said her staff were working closely with Compass, and it had already made improvements.
She said not all the feedback had been negative, and the meals she had personally tasted were acceptable.
She said Compass also provided meals to several other DHBs, and it was not clear why patient dissatisfaction was greater in Dunedin.