Felecia Crawford likes to ask herself the question, “What are we known for?”
And the foodservice team at St. Rita’s Medical Center, where Crawford is culinary director via HHS, is known for a lot of things—one of them being their scratch-made cookies.
The idea for a cookie concept sparked in May 2022 when the Lima, Ohio, foodservice team ordered two new TurboChef pizza ovens. Staff wanted to create something unique that could also boost traffic during the afternoon daypart when diners crave a quick snack.
Lima is a small town and there aren't big gourmet cookie chains in the area, but that doesn’t mean demand for the sweet treat isn’t there, said Crawford.
”I’m like, OK, we can do this. So, let's make our version of a nice, made-to-order gourmet cookie, you know?" said Crawford. "Who doesn't like a warm chocolate chip cookie to brighten their day?”
The team quickly got to work testing out cookie recipes. And it was during this development phase that they established a name for the concept—Simple Dimple.
Crafting the brand
While working on the menu, the team realized they could bake the cookies in the TurboChefs in just four minutes, but if they wanted the treats to cook evenly, they had to put a dimple in the center of the dough.
“And so, our tagline is ‘pure and simple, with a dimple,’" Crawford said. "It really is about taking people back to those taste memories. ... When I tasted [them], it takes me back to my grandmother's house, it takes me back to my mom making chocolate chip cookies. And so, really connecting people with food and those happy memories to go with it.”
Simple Dimple currently has about 19 cookie options offered on a rotating menu. Its staple chocolate chip cookie is of the brown butter variety with pink Himalayan salt. The cookies are sold for $3 a piece and or in packs of one, two, three, six and 12.
Most of the cookies are hot held and served warm, but the concept also offers cookie sandwiches, such as a banana pudding cookie sandwich. Recently, the team added new fall-inspired offerings—chocolate chip with sea salt caramel, iced gingerbread and a pumpkin snickerdoodle with cinnamon cream cheese frosting.
The concept officially opened in August 2022 with a big party—the team even delivered cookies to all of the nursing units.
For the Lima community, the cookies mean more than just a snack; the hospital uses them to foster community as well.
“The hospital does also use the cookies as opportunities to recognize staff," Crawford said. "So as they find staff that are doing an amazing job, for patient care or for communication with others, we actually do have free cookie coupons that they hand out.”
Responding to challenges
Demand for the concept quickly exploded, according to Crawford, who said the initial idea was to serve the cookies made to order, but long lines out the door made that a challenge. Now, Simple Dimple sells an average of 1,000 to 1,200 cookies a month. Rather than serving them made to order, the team bakes off warm cookies every morning before lunch.
Another issue the team has had to address is staffing. The concept runs best with a full-time baker on staff, but labor challenges have made it difficult to have that designated person. As such, cross-training has been key.
“Every single person on this team has kind of pulled together, every manager I have has helped," she said. "Whether it is help pull ingredients, help put together dough, help scoop dough after we've already made the dough, so it’s ready to go. It's been a huge team effort, you know, it's one of those. We're tight, we take care of each other.”
Short-term goals for the operation include continued menu development and planning flavors for upcoming seasons. In the long term, the team hopes to expand the concept to other hospitals in its healthcare system.
And demand for the cookies has yet to slow down, Crawford noted.
“We are known for cookies now,” she said. “So again, our goal is to start out going, 'What are you known for?' We're known for big cookies.”