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Pop-ups propel community engagement at Sinai Hospital

Photograph courtesy of Metz Culinary Management

About two years ago, the Metz Culinary Management team at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore was looking for ways to continue to increase its community involvement. 

So it teamed up with the Baltimore Integration Partnership, a program aimed at growing women- and minority-owned small businesses in the Baltimore area, to set up rotating pop-ups in an unused space in the hospital. 

“During the mealtimes, [local business owners] would be able to pop up in our retail outlet and sample, show and sell their products as well as continue to increase their business,” says Metz Culinary Vice President of Purchasing Brian Bachman. 

The pop-ups quickly became popular with hospital guests and staff, helping local businesses expand while ensuring the hospital’s retail offerings remain exciting.

Building the partnership 

Community business owners were timid at first when approached by the hospital, though most of that stemmed from not knowing much about operating inside a healthcare space, which comes with its own set of regulations, says Healthcare Division Project ManagerAdam Gonzalez. 

“Healthcare entities have very stringent and detailed regulatory requirements that include securing higher liability coverage, licensing documentation, FDA requirements and the appropriate security vetting processes, [which] can prove challenging,” he says. 

The Metz team and members from Baltimore Integration Partnership frequently met with business owners to educate them on operating the pop-up so they could confidently showcase their products. 

“[The business owners] are taking a chance, and they were kind of a little hesitant to give it a try,” Bachman says. “But obviously, they want to expand their business and they knew it was a good idea, and once we got through all the logistics of it, the actual implementation piece was quite simple.”

A mutually beneficial relationship 

Along with giving business owners the opportunity to expand their reach, the pop-ups also allow hospital guests and staff to experience new and unique products that don’t always find their way onto hospital shelves.

“A lot of the pop-up vendors that we use have niche products, so it's not something you typically sell in a hospital retail outlet,” Bachman says. 

Past pop-up offerings have included gourmet popcorn and local baked goods, and popular products are sometimes later offered permanently at the hospital’s retail locations. 

While the pop-ups have been a plus for the hospital and for Gonzalez and the rest of the team, the program’s importance lies heavily in the community benefits that come with it. 

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” he says. “The initial intent was not revenue or profits. The program is designed to build relationships within the community that is measured through goodwill and partnerships.” 

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