By Michael Tetreault, Editor-In-Chief
APRIL 9, 2013 | If you are like most concierge or direct-pay medical practice owners, you probably have a large community of patients who love to cook and eat healthy. That love for food coupled with a love for sharing your unique medical practice enables you to have the unique opportunity to grow and expand within your local community very quickly and in a passive sales-like way.
Whether you’re a foodie, a weekend crock-pot queen or King of the BBQ, you’re a still a physician. You have knowledge about the body, clean foods and digestion that you need to share and people want to learn about. Sharing your knowledge of food, handling of meats or just plain salad tips can turn into a profitable patient-procurement strategy for your practice simply by offering cooking classes or seminars to your existing patients and their friends. Whether you conduct them at your practice, a commercial kitchen or simply have an in-home kitchen ideal for the set-up, you can offer classes and instructional teaching in a niche area of your own choosing or offer basic and advanced cooking strategies that people will want to use and desire to learn more about. So, while leading such classes is often a lot of fun, it can also be looked at as an extension of your concierge medicine or direct-pay marketing strategy.
Before you begin, we’ve put together a few tips for you and your staff.
Determine what kind of cooking classes you will teach
If you or one of your staff love Italian cooking, or making on-the-go healthy shakes, start with these types of simple classes first. If you are an expert bread baker, offer classes in these techniques. Make a list of your skills, even skills that don’t seem important to you at first. Maybe teaming up with your spouse, kids or staff is a good idea too. It’s quite possible that once you go through the list, you will see ample opportunity to offer a variety of classes that patients and prospective patients will want to attend again and again.
Know the law
Check with your local department of health as well as your county clerk’s office to find out if you’ll need any type of special license to provide this type of service. Due to the fact that you are not selling the food, it is unlikely that you will need to have an inspection. It’s a simple phone call and takes less than 5-minutes but it’s best to know before you begin. Offering classes in your patients’ or an employee’s homes can also be an option.
Gather equipment and set up
Be sure that you have everything you will need to teach your class. Nothing looks worse than not having a key ingredient. If your class attendees will be cooking, be sure to have enough for everyone. You won’t need five mixers, for example, but you will need to have ample mixing bowls, ramekins, measuring cups, spoons and ingredients.
Bonus Tip! If your kitchen isn’t properly equipped, see if you can offer classes through a local retail store (think Sur la table or William Sonoma). This can be great marketing for them and provides you a place to do your cooking. If you can’t find a store to work with you, you may be able to rent the space from your commercial kitchen.
Develop your promotional materials
Add your class offerings to your medical practice brochure that can be handed out at your office, service window to patients or anywhere in the local community. Also include this promotional piece on your website.
Bonus Tip! People love take-aways. And something that can easily be found when they put your recipe on their shelf at home. Be sure to print out enough recipe cards for everyone and on a color paper that people will know it’s yours. Be sure to include your practice web site and telephone number somewhere on the card and maybe the name of your practice too. If you’re doing a series of classes, make all of your recipe cards similar in shape and consider lamination too. Maybe you also want to think about a small recipe box so that when people attend each of your classes, they have an entire box or place in which to go to find all of your healthy recipes!
You might find that your first classes will go along so well you don’t need a plan, but creating a syllabus and making notes for yourself will help to ensure that you hit all the points you want to make. You don’t need to plan every class to the minute, but having general points you want to go over will make teaching easier and help the class go smoothly. (see the list below for tips on creating a class syllabus)
Once you get interest in your first set of classes; you’ll need to decide if these will be a series of classes or a one-time only thing–only accept a few students. This will help you get your feet wet, allow you to try new things and help you keep your nerves down if you are nervous about your new venture.
The following will help you create a syllabus for your own cooking class:
Theory before Practice
When teaching people how to cook who may not be very skilled at it, have never cooked before or have very limited knowledge, it’s a good idea to start at the beginning. When you first start a cooking class, your students have to know the fundamentals of cooking. These basics of cooking can include the type of pans you will be using in your class, why you use certain utensils and detailed explanations of various cooking techniques. You will also want to teach them the rules of the kitchen, appliance safety and knife safety. Go over what your plans are before you actually let them cook.
Every good cooking class needs handouts. It should include information and reminders of important concepts you want them to remember. It should also include the recipes you will be showing them how to make. Try to get these done before your class even starts.
You don’t want to throw your students into a practical cooking lesson by having them cook an elaborate 5 course meal. Start with small dishes with limited ingredients. As you advance from beginner dishes to more challenging ones, you can include useful cooking tricks.
Bonus Tip! If you’re wondering how many people to invite, we recommend starting small and working your class-size up from there. Your physical environment and cooking space will also limit the amount of people. Probably 6 to ten people to begin with is a good place to start.