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Redefining the Healthcare Eating Experience for Comfort & Adventure

August 3, 2020
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Eating out provides a nice break from cooking, but convenience isn’t the only thing drawing crowds away from their kitchens. Data shows that surveyed adults crave new and adventurous culinary experiences as much as they want familiar comfort food.

Healthcare foodservice directors can capitalize on this trend by integrating a mix of comfort and adventurous cuisine into their menus and also in their marketing.

Millennials drive the adventurous eating trend, with some eating out up to 28 times per month — three times as often as their Gen X counterpart. While the pandemic pushed many people to order takeout, a majority of surveyed Gen Z and millennials said they would return to eating at restaurants as soon as shelter-in-place isolation ends.

One reason for people’s willingness to explore new venues and cuisine is the connection between food and self expression. More than ever, dietary preferences align with one’s “declaration of identity” or political ideology, according to a Nation’s Restaurant News article.

Foodservice directors can use this insight to appeal to their patients and retail customers. Here are five ways to incorporate comfort and adventurous food in your cafés, grab ‘n go offerings, patient meals and more.

Put a twist on the classics: Customers will always have a soft spot for comfort food. To uplevel these familiar favorites, add a new ingredient or change the presentation. Or, experiment by serving international versions of comfort food to appeal to a diverse audience.
Use trending ingredients: Himalayan sea salt, chia seeds, flax seed, avocado oil, coconut oil, almond flour, ancient grains and non-dairy milk are examples of ingredients that appeal to a clean-eating audience. These relatively small additions or substitutions will progress your menu with little effort.
Appeal to different dietary trends: Paleo, vegan, plant-based, gluten-free and keto/low-carb diets are becoming more common, especially as people own these labels as part of their identity. Add these different dietary preferences in your menu rotation. You’ll be surprised how many people are willing to try them, even if it’s not medically necessary for them to do so!
Serve healthier comfort food: As a healthcare establishment, providing healthful options is a top priority, but so is serving food your patients and staff will like. As a compromise, serve comfort food like low-fat mac ‘n cheese, lasagne with whole wheat pasta, olive oil mashed potatoes and flourless chocolate cake.
Experiment with grab ‘n go: Adventurous eating isn’t just for sit-down meals. Try adding green smoothies, prepackaged kale chips, banana chips with granola, cashew milk yogurt parfaits or jackfruit wheat wraps in your take-and-go kiosks or cafés.

Improving your food is just one part of redefining the healthcare eating experience. You also need to change the way your operation talks about how food is sourced, prepared and served in your marketing and advertising. This information is just as important to your diners as the meals being served!

Social responsibility is an important part of the conversations we have about food. When you advertise your meals, be sure to highlight if something is locally sourced, minimally processed, organic, free of antibiotics or hormones, or made with an alternative protein.

Advertising a new, adventurous meal may even generate “buzz” from patients and staff — like selling an amazing “baconless” BLT or cauliflower crust pizza.

By integrating these adventurous and comfort food trends, you will redefine the healthcare eating experience and keep your patients and staff excited for more.

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