| LINKS |
Disney Does Wellness Too
Look at What They're Doing!
Whole grains and veggies are finally beginning to trump transfats and fructose—at least in some foodservice circles. And as the country looks to sort out the whole, vexing question of food and health, onsite operators are in a unique position to establish leadership in encouraging this transition with an impact commercial chains can never hope for.
For one thing, the very fact that onsite customers are frequent repeat customers means that getting them to choose more healthful options can result in long lasting behavioral changes. For another, such choices are clearly in line with goals many of their host institutions and corporations would like to achieve.
Remember when certain high-visibility fast food chains began promoting more healthful menu options? In most cases, these remained a small part of overall sales. These efforts often did wonders to re-position the chains as caring about the healthfulness of their customers' diets, but few would argue that these changes have resulted in any long term impact, at least so far.
In contrast, many noncommercial operators actively promote healthful dining options with the idea of actually achieving long-term changes in customer food preferences. Well thought out onsite dining programs and options help customers lose weight, feel better and lead a more healthful lifestyle.
While different segments approach the challenge in different ways, they have a common goal: to give customers many options, yes, but to also encourage them to make sound food choices. In doing so, onsite operators also have the opportunity to demonstrate leadership in the market at large, not only with the menus they develop, but also with the behavioral results they achieve.
We've covered the unique nutrition challenges of operators in K12 schools in other stories recently; in the following pages we look at strategies FM readers in other segments are using to make nutrition a better dining—and business—proposition…
B&I Comes Full Circle
A HEALTHY COLLABORATION. Eastman Chemical Co., with seven onsite foodservice providers, launched a comprehensive nutrition education campaign to help employees make sound food choices.
As American companies seek to drive productivity, cut healthcare costs and boost bottom lines, an increasing number are turning to their onsite cafeterias for help. After all, a healthy worker is a happy worker is a productive worker. In one sense, this takes B&I operators full circle—the segment got its start when employers became concerned about the health, wellness and productivity of the large concentration of workersin early 20th century manufacturing plants.
Today, health and wellness are again becoming business concerns for many companies. For example, Eastman Chemical Co. in Kingsport, TN, began developing its ambitious program "as a response to a directive from one of our vice presidents, who wanted to have foodservice more aligned with the health initiatives of the company," says Jean Petke, advanced employee services coordinator. "We wanted to develop a comprehensive program that would make it easier for employees to make healthful food choices." At the same time, Petke says the company was committed to keeping the business viable for each of the outsource providers used across Eastman's expansive campus.
Eastman has a more complicated situation than most operators with seven different onsite foodservice providers—four franchises, two privately owned concepts and one management company—in addition to a separate vending company and an upscale onsite local catering company.
The resulting program—dubbed "Eating Healthy @ Eastman, It's Your Choice"—is a cooperative effort among the Virtual Food Court team (Eastman's outsource dining services providers), Eastman Integrated Health (an umbrella organization for all health-related strategies), Eastman Health & Wellness (the in-house wellness program/fitness centers) and Eastman Medical (the on-site medical department).
Prior to the program, nutrition had not typically been emphasized in meal promotions, according to Petke. To change that, the team set up nutritional guidelines and marketed food choices meeting those guidelines on menu boards. Subsequently, this led to the development of a booklet that provides a comprehensive guide for employees on how to eat healthy while at work. It includes information on subjects ranging from proper portion size to building a balanced daily diet.
"We focused on initiatives that could be accomplished immediately without incurring much cost and without impacting subsidies or commissions," says Petke. "The success of the comprehensive education campaign can be attributed to the joint effort. We had all the key players on the same page."
To boost participation, Petke implemented an incentive program in which a customer who purchased a healthful item received an apple sticker for an incentive card. Six stickers entitles customers to $5 off a future purchase.
"We ran the promotion for four months and redeemed 3,782 incentive cards," says Petke.
For an employee population of approximately 8,000 plus 2,500 outside contractors onsite, that's a pretty good showing. However, for $5 a card, that adds up to $23,085.
"From the start of this initiative, we promised our vendors that we would keep them financially viable. All our companies operate on a profit-loss basis. We couldn't ask them to make changes to their menus that would affect their bottom lines," says Petke. So Eastman Integrated Health subsidized the entire program at no additional cost to the vendors.
"Ultimately we hope this will reduce healthcare costs," says Petke.
On the other end of the spectrum is Dole Food Co. in Westlake Village, CA. Four years ago the company launched its Dole Wellness Program—touting the philosophy that ‘healthy eating habits begin at home and in the workplace.' David Murdock, Dole's chief executive, announced the corporate initiative to lead by example.
"As the world's largest producer of fruits and vegetables, we decided to walk the talk of nutrition and health," says Jennifer Grossman, vice president and director of the Dole Nutrition Institute.
The Dole Employee Wellness Program includes fitness and yoga classes, free morning and afternoon fruit and vegetable breaks, discounted specials on healthy meal options in the cafeteria and exercise programs that include lunch-time walking groups.
The Dole Nutrition Institute looks to continue Murdock's mission by "cultivating the seeds of nutritional knowledge," says Grossman. "By harvesting information from our own labs and universities around the world, we're educating ourselves, the public and policy makers about the pivotal role of proper nutrition."
Recently, the Institute launched a Corporate Wellness Toolkit that businesses can use to promote nutritious diets and healthy lifestyles among their employees. It packages the components of Dole's own successful employee wellness program, which, since its launch, has earned Dole the California Fit Business Award in the 1,000+ employee category.
"We created the Corporate Wellness Toolkit as a resource for our business partners who want to join the wellness bandwagon but don't know where to start," says Grossman. "We offer a co-branded nutrition newsletter, healthy food service recipes, nutrition tip hold music, signage, kiosks, videos and much more."
(For information on the Corporate Wellness Toolkit, visit: www.dole.com)
Retooling Campus Dining
MIND, BODY, SOUL. Nectar, Vanderbilt's natural food c-store offers students a bevy of organic, locally made, and sustainable products.
Curious what the future holds for "nutritionism?" Peer into the college and university segment. Often a predictor of the next-big-thing, colleges are by and large incorporating nutrition into the day-to-day.
In many cases they are blending nutrition programs with trendy organic, sustainable and natural foods initiatives. The result? Customized niche concepts that form the basis for designated dining halls and station concepts.
"A group of students explained how they loved the foods in the dining halls too much," says Regenia Phillips, director of dining services at the University of North Texas. "They asked us to give them an outlet to avoid the temptation to overeat."
Seemingly an impossible request in an all-you-care-to-eat dining environment with six dining halls, Phillips did some reshuffling. "At that time, we had a renovation on the horizon. We decided to take a different approach with the space..."
And so, Mean Greens was born. As an all healthy, all-the-time dining hall that serves portion-controlled entrees and all-you-careto-eat everything else, it offers students a controlled "healthy" eating environment where they can't be tempted to eat one, two, or even ten hot dogs in any one sitting.
"If you chose to come to Mean Greens, you must play by the rules," says Phillips. "As students enter, they are given a portion control card that explains the entree choices for that day. They can then choose one—and only one—item and augment it with as much of the greens and healthy sides as they wish."
While the food costs for the Mean Greens are a bit higher than at other UNT cafes, the portion control helps to curb the added expense.
"The goal is to educate students about proper portioning and healthful menu choices as much as it is to serve healthful meals," says Phillips. All entrees—which emphasize grilled meats, sushi, organically grown produce and marinated tofu—are under 300 calories with under 10 grams of fat.
"We have a culinary trainer and a dietitian who worked together to create the menu. Our dietitian also spends time in the Mean Greens talking with students and educating them about healthful eating habits," says Phillips.
As might be expected, the concept of portion control has been met with mixed reviews. But Phillips insists, "if a student doesn't like it, there are five other dining halls where he or she can eat."
With daily meal counts at around 1,200 a day, "The numbers are about even with last year when the space was a traditional dining hall," says Phillips. "But the new location has had much higher cash sales. This indicates that some of the previous patrons may have elected to not eat in a portion-controlled environment, but the difference is being made up by more health conscious cash customers." Since opening, cash sales have increased 48% over the previous year.
Other operators have found it helpful—and cost effective—to blend the nutrition message with other lifestyle concerns. "We have a natural food store on campus called Nectar," says Camp Howard, associate director and executive chef at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. "Nectar is unlike any other retail outlet on campus."
As Vanderbilt's first, and only, natural food store, Nectar retails gluten free products, organic produce, natural and organic entrees, artisan cheeses and more than 500 packaged products from three dozen manufacturers like Amy's Organics, Izze Natural Juices and Kiss My Face body care.
The store promises students a convenient, contemporary, "Zenlike" shopping experience, says Howard. Located in the basement of a freshman dorm, "Nectar is off the beaten path. In order to attract students we had to create a c-store that offered a totally different type of shopping experience."
Nectar's selection is divided into six sections—Liquid, Grain, Ice, Body, Mind and Think. The Body section includes a complimentary tea bar where students can sample the latest organic, natural teas, while the Think section provides pamphlets on campus initiatives and a computer accessing web sites on all the products sold at the store. Everything sold in the store is certified to be "clean," meaning they contain no hydrogenated fats, artificial additives, sweeteners, colorings or preservatives. Also, students can either pay cash or use their VU meal plans at the store.
There is no denying Nectar is an interesting idea, but how does it fit into the financial model?
"Students are willing to pay more for these types of specialty products," says Howard. The pay-more-for-quality ideology has served the dining program well. So much so that Nectar is generating 30 percent higher sales than the retail market it replaced.
"Health" Care Fare
CHEFS IN A FISHBOWL. At UNT's Mean Greens, students have the opportunity to watch the chefs prepare portion-controlled healthful fare.
In a hospital setting, the rules and practices governing patient feeding are generally assumed to differ greatly from that of the retail dining facilities...but do they? After all, whether it is a patient, a family member, or street traffic, today's healthcare customer expects to find healthful foods readily available at the hospital.
A growing number of healthcare operators are taking these expectations to heart by offering customers nutrition information about each entree, including calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat, cholesterol, and sodium grams per serving. Other operators are instituting wellness programs or easily recognizable nutrition-oriented branded concepts. Still more are hosting health fairs, nutrition education and exercise programs for employees and staff.
When Maine Medical Center (MMC) renovated it's retail cafe in 2000, Director Mary Keysor and her team selected equipment that would produce more healthful foods. They deep-sixed the fryers and brought in induction woks for healthful stir-fries. The chefs moved from the back of the house to the front and the shiny new servery was renamed Impressions Cafe.
"The renovation was part of a long term project," says Keysor. "We were extremely fortunate to have the funding to pick and choose the tools to launch this new health-focus business model. The design supports healthy cooking, but our philosophy preserves choice for the consumer. We do not mandate nutrition."
To help educate customers about the benefits of eating well, MMC hired Cindy Rubinoff, RD, to serve as retail healthy lifestyles adviser. Rubinoff—whose position is funded as part of a grant—markets various nutrition promotions as part of the Healthy Impression Program (H.I.P.), which she developed. As part of the program, the H.I.P logo is used as point of sale information—a quick reference for the busy customer. And according to Keysor, "H.I.P." information is being programmed into the cash register system. Receipts will show which H.I.P. foods were purchased as well as the calories, fat and carbohydrate of the sale.
"Cindy is very creative and she brings her knowledge and marketing skills with her," says Keysor. "Once she came in dressed as a carrot to make a statement about choosing colorful foods."
In addition to changing preparation techniques, MMC has reorganized product placement. Bottled water and other H.I.P. foods are at eye level. MMC also has a new line of single portion snacks rather than packages that contain 3-4 servings—giving more variety and better choices. A fruit cart (which Keysor found for $150) stocked with whole fresh fruit helps merchandise a la carte purchases and is prominently situated so that each customer passes it as they enter the cafe. Fruit sales are up 400%.
"It's important to build a sustainable program on the foundation of choice and education," says Keysor. "I think giving the customer a choice, but also helping them to make good decisions is the way to go."
This month, Rush University Medical Center plans to open a brand new retail concept—Rushing to Better Health—that will serve nothing but good-for-you foods. Rush retooled an existing station, changing the signage and menu to reflect a fresh and healthful look.
"Our customers were asking for more ‘healthy' foods, but when we asked what they meant by ‘healthy,' everyone gave a different definition," says Dr. Mary Gregoire, PhD, RD, director of food and nutrition services. "We don't have the funding for a complete renovation. So we decided to work within our means. We set nutrition parameters that parallel the dietary guidelines and developed menus based on those parameters."
All entrees will have no more than 500 calories, with less than 30% of those calories from fat. Whole grain products will be standard and there will be a fish entree featured daily.
"The goal for the Rushing to Better Health station is to draw in new business. Oftentimes, the cafeteria is perceived as not offering any healthful foods. While that's certainly not the case, we hope that having a dedicated station concept will change the community's perception to a more positive one," says Gregorie.
| Quick (and Cheap!) |
• Move bottled water to eye level
• Have greater variety in healthful snacks as opposed to candy
• Use display cooking to promote healthful choices
• Use healthful themes for meal promotions
• Dress up in costumes to promote healthful foods
• Offer free samples of nutritious specials
• Promote healthful foods with colorful signage
• Bring in local farmers to host a farmers market