Offering nutritional services in your facility adds one more facet to your program that can help increase your client success rate. When members achieve their goals, your retention increases, your referrals increase and, ultimately, your bottom line increases.

So how do you make nutrition services a profit center for your facility? First, you need to find the right person to provide nutritional services for your program. An increasing number of registered dietitians are obtaining a degree in exercise physiology or are becoming certified personal trainers. This is probably the best nutrition professional for your program. You need to determine if the nutritionist is going to be a consultant or become an employee. There are benefits to each scenario that go beyond the scope of this article. The following are several ideas for the promotion and long-term success of nutritional services for your program.

  • Get staff buy in

    This is by far the most important factor in the number of clients who use nutritional services at your facility. They have established a level of trust with the clients and have tremendous influence in referring clients to the dietitian — based on individualized needs. In other words, a trainer would know if a group weight loss class or working one-on-one with the dietitian would be most appropriate for a particular client. Don't overlook the impact that your receptionist or front desk staff have on clients. It is important for the staff and dietitian to establish a close working relationship. Have the dietitian attend a staff meeting for introductions. Your staff should always be thinking “nutrition” when working with clients.

  • Provide a ‘teaser’ for clients

    Consider offering a free diet analysis for all new clients. You may want to offer this only to those clients at a certain level of membership. The dietitian will analyze a three-day food diary and provide a recommendation sheet to the client. In order to keep the time spent on each client to a minimum, the dietitian would need a software program that analyzes foods and develop a template recommendation sheet that is slightly customized for each client. The fitness facility would pay a nominal fee for each analysis ($15 to $20) to the dietitian. This nominal cost to your facility is a smart investment with the intention that the client chooses to continue working with the dietitian in the future.

  • Hold group events

    Group events are more profitable than one-on-one work with the dietitian. For example, the dietitian can hold a one-hour lecture with 10 people who paid $20 (yield $200) vs. one hour with one person (yield $75). Some examples of group events are: weight loss courses lasting several weeks, 1- or 1 ½-hour lectures on a particular topic, half-day or all-day seminars covering several topics, supermarket tours, restaurant nights, cooking demonstrations, and so on. Another benefit for group events is that some of the participants may choose to continue working with the dietitian in the future.

  • Marketing

    Here are a few ideas. Have “nutritional services by a registered dietitian” appear on all external marketing pieces. Have a bulletin board in a common area that focuses on nutrition topics and post the menu of services. Include a brochure in every introductory packet for new clients. Consider holding periodic nutrition talks free of charge (keep it to a minimum). Have the dietitian develop relationships with local doctors. Give away a nutrition consultation as a prize for motivational contests.

  • Christine Karpinski, MA, RD, is a registered dietitian and exercise physiologist. You can contact her at chris@nutritionedge.net.