Descriptive menus and branding in hospital foodservice: a pilot study

Heather Hartwell (Bournemouth University, Poole, UK)
John Edwards (Bournemouth University, Poole, UK)

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management

ISSN: 0959-6119

Publication date: 2 October 2009



The purpose of this paper is to evaluate consumer's perceptions towards descriptive menus and branding in hospital foodservice. This research is unique in its focus; earlier work has tended to concentrate on palatability and the variety of the menu rather than on dish description.


Data were collected by means of a questionnaire in both medical and surgical wards (n=42). In addition, qualitative comments were sought from patients and foodservice management to enhance and add weight to results and conclusions drawn.


Menu description was welcomed with patients preferring familiar foods. The general consensus was that an unfamiliar dish would not be selected on brand name alone.

Practical implications

The potential impact of the proposed work could be significant with regard to hospital foodservice strategy particularly as greater emphasis has been given to the role of food in clinical outcomes. Any initiative such as improved dish description or use of familiar branded products that alleviates patient concern and concurrently leads to greater acceptance and consumption must be one that is regarded with favour.


A full review of the literature on menu description has been undertaken and no research to date has been conducted to identify patient's perceptions of menu rhetoric design and the effect on food acceptance. This research will bring new information based on empirical evidence about the benefits of dish descriptive style and hints towards a procurement policy for enhancing patient satisfaction. The potential value of this research, therefore, to inform hospital foodservice practice and strategy is identifiable.



Hartwell, H. and Edwards, J. (2009), "Descriptive menus and branding in hospital foodservice: a pilot study", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 21 No. 7, pp. 906-916.

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