Members of the Detroit (Mich.) Athletic Club (DAC) put a lot of effort into their workouts. These individuals are pushing to perform better and reach new health and wellness goals. That’s why consuming the right nutrients after they exercise has become just as important as what they consume before they work out, and members of multiple departments at DAC have teamed up to find a way to help.
“Many of my clients would ask specifically what they could find here at the club that would support their wellness goals,” says Rosi Reeves, the club’s Wellness Director. “I wanted to provide on-the-go options that our members could feel good about.”
Reeves teamed up with DAC’s Banquet Chef, Ashley Brancheau, and Lindsey Hlubic, CS, General Manager of the DAC’s Grill Room & Madison Café, to create what is now called the Athlete’s Kitchen brand of menu items and products.
On the surface, Athlete’s Kitchen seems relatively straightforward: DAC offers a rotation of healthy, nutrient-dense foods that are low in sugar. These items are clearly branded and are sold in DAC’s grab-and-go venue, the Madison Café.
Food costs on these items run between 33% and 35%. The bestsellers include seasonal “noatmeal” varieties, seasonal quinoa bowls packed with protein and fresh vegetables, avocado beet brownies, fresh, housemade protein breads, and a rotation of salads.
But if you look below the surface, you’ll see the immense amount of teamwork required to get this program off the ground.
“We believe that a significant amount of the success of the Athlete’s Kitchen brand and products is due to the cross-departmental teamwork that went into the initial concept and launch—and continues today,” says Charles Johnson, CCM, the DAC’s Assistant General Manager. “These individuals are passionate about their careers and about Athlete’s Kitchen, and that passion carries over into the quality of the products.”
Introducing food with low sugars can be a tough sell, notes Reeves. “I believe the food speaks for itself and has become quite popular with our membership,” she adds.
The recipes that have come to be the members’ most favorites come from Reeves’s own repertoire. Together, she and Brancheau brainstorm recipes and dishes to create exciting options that take into account sugar content, high-protein grain options, light carbohydrate options, and top-quality fresh fruits and vegetables.
And then Hlubic has gone from there to plunge into the marketing of the brand head-on.
“We feature Athlete’s Kitchen in our weekly e-newsletter, our monthly magazine, reader boards throughout the club, and table tents in the Café and in the locker rooms,” she says. “The photographs of the dishes focus on showcasing their ingredients in their whole or natural form, while also highlighting our Wellness Director and her specific involvement in the program.
“We also provide samples to the athletic trainers, so they know the items first-hand and are able to talk about them to their clients,” Hlubic adds.
The four Athlete’s Kitchen items that are currently packaged as to-go items and sold in the Madison Café now account for 12% of the venue’s food sales, Hlubic reports—for a total of nearly $9,000 since they were introduced in July 2018. The “Noatmeal” made with chia, egg, coconut milk, banana and seasonal flavorings has remained the “most popular item, by far,” she says—but the “Beet Brownie,” which she describes as a “sweet, healthy treat” is “quickly rising in popularity.”
This level of acceptance, Johnson notes, fits with a DAC goal that “Anything we can do to differentiate ourselves from other services in the community helps with both members’ attraction and retention.
“The fitness industry is so robust and continues to grow nationally, “ he adds, “so our ability to connect fitness with food and take a wellness approach is another reason people aspire to be members of the DAC.”
Rosi Reeves, Wellness Director of the Detroit Athletic Club (DAC), wanted to provide health-conscious members with on-the-go foods they could feel good eating either after a workout or as a healthy meal anytime.
Reeves and DAC’s Banquet Chef, Ashley Brancheau, translated a number of health-focused recipes into products that could be produced daily and sold to members at the club for either dining in or to-go. Lindsey Hlubic, Grill Room & Madison Café General Manager, took the lead on branding the program now called Athlete’s Kitchen. Hlubic also developed a detailed marketing plan to educate members.
After only a few months, sales of Athlete’s Kitchen items are trending higher than other café items. DAC’s athletic members also love having a post-workout, healthy meal option. The program also provides members with convenient access to breakfast or lunch, knowing their nutritional needs are taken care of.