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Memorial Hospital and Health System in South Bend, IN, just wanted a creative way to promote the Valentine’s Day opening of its new heart hospital. What the hospital ended up with was an unexpected revenue source and what senior leaders hope will become a national line of chocolate cafés.

Two years ago, Memorial Hospital partnered with The South Bend Chocolate Company, a popular Midwest candy factory, to create the Love Your Heart with Deep Dark Chocolate Bouquet: three large dark chocolate lollipops tied together with a card outlining the symptoms of a heart attack and the benefits of dark chocolate. A gimmick intended to launch the cardiac center, the sweet treat was such a success that South Bend Chocolate agreed to make the bouquets part of its regular offering in locations around the region, with Memorial receiving $1 for every bouquet sold.

When the hospital’s coffee shop was redesigned that same year, they decided to keep the chocolate theme and opened the Chocolate Café at Memorial. Despite its name, the café offers more than just chocolate, says Diane Stover, vice president of marketing and innovation at the 400-staffed-bed hospital; Memorial’s contract with South Bend Chocolate mandates that the café will provide healthy options.

“These aren’t designed for people to come down and have 10 pounds of chocolate every day,” Stover says. “There are salads, low-fat soups, sugar-free candies, and low-fat parfait desserts.”

Through a revenue-sharing lease agreement, South Bend Chocolate pays Memorial rent for the café space and shares a percentage of the café’s revenues. The new eatery more than doubled the income Memorial had been receiving from its coffee shop, and its popularity with visitors, patients and staff has grown.

“If you’ve just done surgery for 10 hours or your unit’s been full, this is an escape location for staff,” Stover says.

Word of the chocolate café’s success spread, and hospitals around the country have expressed interest in opening their own cafés. To meet this demand, Memorial Hospital and The South Bend Chocolate Factory joined forces to create a third-party company, Chocolate Café Medical Ventures Group. The company is about to sign agreements with two hospitals in Wisconsin and Illinois.

—Molly Rowe