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When healthy and tasty meet: How to promote changes to your hospital’s food fare
Working in healthcare, you’re likely familiar with the traditional model of hospital cuisine – low-taste protein, bland vegetables and (the usual) Jell-O® on the side. However, that traditional model of healthcare food fare is beginning to change.Hospitals worldwide are beginning to shift their cafeteria offerings to more delicious, flavorful and healthy options. From going organic to growing fresh herbs on site and replacing desserts with fresh fruit, your organization’s cuisine may already be packing a more flavorful punch.

Rather than let this perfect promotional opportunity pass by, we’ve compiled a few great ideas to draw attention to your efforts. Hospital food is a topic of interest to many, so strike while the iron’s hot!

Be visual
By their very nature, people are visual. They want to see the results and make their own judgments. So, even if they can’t actually taste your latest menu changes, let them see the photographic proof. One of the easiest ways to showcase your culinary masterpieces is with an online blog connected to your organization’s main website:

  • Each time you add a new item to the hospital menu, prepare it and snap a photo. Upload the photo to your blog with a description of the meal’s ingredients and nutrition facts. Leave comments open so that diners can comment on the meals after they’ve tasted them.
  • Consider sharing recipes on the blog. This can be an especially valuable differentiator if you share delicious specialty diet recipes (i.e.  no-sugar, gluten-free or low-sodium), as those can be hard to find.
  • Take suggestions on your blog by letting the commentary flow. You’ll be surprised at how effective this can be at gathering research and feedback! Once someone provides feedback, reward their efforts with a token of gratitude: Try useful Food & Fitness Journals, Counting Carb Pocketbooks or even Frequent Diner Punch Cards to keep the theme going. Offer a print satisfaction survey for patients who are less web-savvy.

Substantiate claims
Once you’ve provided visuals, it’s also necessary to back them up with hard evidence. In addition to sharing nutritional facts, also promote these items to make your case and draw attention:

  • Ingredients. Many hospitals have found success with ingredients that are both tasty and provide health benefits. For example, Michigan’s Henry Ford Bloomington West Hospital’s chef often adds tumeric to dishes for its anti-inflammatory properties and cinnamon, which can help in regulating blood sugar. An easy way to promote this information is by providing one “Did you know?” food fact with each meal served. Consider printing ingredient facts on Colored Placemats or Food Trays to spread the word.
  • Assistance. You may have already stumbled upon a secret to culinary success at your hospital: Hiring outside help! Pulling in noted chefs or cooks-in-training from highly regarded culinary schools can make a big impact in drawing attention to your new menu offerings, as well as adding credibility to your taste claims.

Consider holding a “Celebrity Chef” dinner series at the hospital to draw the attention of diners and the media alike. Send out a media kit to all relevant journalists that includes detailed information about the changes your facility has made to its food offerings and the benefits you expect patients and other diners to receive. In the kit, include press badges held inside logo’d All-in-one Badge Holders so they get insider access without a hitch. Sell tickets to the event and donate all funds raised to charity or your organization’s foundation to double the impact!

Find hidden opportunities
Once your efforts to make hospital food more appetizing have begun to catch on with patients, visitors, press and local diners, you may even find diners treating your cafeteria more like a restaurant. Capitalize on the increased customer base by:

  • Harnessing the teaching opportunities. All the extra attention pointed toward your hospital’s food can make it a great time to promote related healthy eating issues like portion control, calorie counting and exercise. The average inpatient stay is only a few days, but continuing education on these issues will contribute to a long-term healthy lifestyle.
  • Uncovering the advertising opportunities. Advertise relevant hospital programs, services and classes to those visiting your cafeteria. Consider periodically outfitting cafeteria employees with promotional Buttons and putting up colorful Posters to cross-promote related programs and make sure your message is heard.

Offering new options in hospital food fare benefits not only your valued patients but also other important audiences and stakeholders. Use this positive change to promote your hospital’s overall efforts in providing quality care. You deserve the extra attention for a job well-done!

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