(Nearly) Free Ways to Market your Healthy, Sustainable, and House-Made Initiatives

Has your hospital made the move toward incorporating healthier food options into menus and cafeterias? We know that journey involved tinkering with purchasing practices, food service contracts, and business strategies—hard work but absolutely worth it. Healthier, more sustainable, and "house-made" initiatives mean better tasting and more responsible food options. But does taste always speak for itself?

A lot of factors affect how we perceive food (plating, utensil weight, monetary costs) but what about words?

Words are powerful. And the way you talk about your food options directly affects how your patients experience the food. We've put together our list of top three best practices for marketing your healthier, tastier, house-made menu items.

1. Menu Descriptors

While it is easy enough to sprinkle your menu with words like "fresh" and "ripe", those words have become so overused that they have ceased to mean anything. One of the most powerful menu descriptions involves citing the origin of the ingredients, especially if they're locally sourced. Produce from community gardens or ice cream from a local dairy? Promote that information on your menu.

So for example, if your tomato soup is made with local, organic tomatoes, the item on your menu could be "Our house tomato soup, made with tomatoes from Meghan's Organic Farm in Ithaca, NY." If your menu features ingredients from multiple local sources, dedicate the back page of your menu to featuring local producers.

2. Sharing Recipes (this is where the "Nearly" comes in)

Along those same lines, have you started making more items from scratch in your kitchen?

For example, let's say you have started making these amazing, vegan brownies from scratch. Patients love them. Staff loves them. Awesome. Why not put the recipe on the package? (Printing/packaging/label fees are the very low cost associated with this best practice.) It reminds your diners that the brownies are homemade and a healthier alternative to standard dessert fare. Sharing the recipe educates diners on how to prepare healthier options once they leave the hospital as well.

3. Educating Staff to be Ambassadors

Think about how servers at high-end restaurants talk about the food options on their menus. Their knowledge about the menu brings excitement to the dining experience. This is also how nurses, dietitians, and dining staff should be talking about your food to patients, with that same level of knowledge and excitement. An easy way to get that information out there is by giving staff an expanded menu that has the ins-and-outs of how the individual dishes were prepared and list the ingredient details.

Your staff is also a source of grassroots marketing; if they enjoy the food, then they will be excited to talk about it with patients. It's an "if you build it, they will come" situation; sometimes you just have to remind them that you built it.