A patient experience worth honking about

“It’s critical that we make the Rochester experience positive for patients and visitors — not just

Joe Powers (standing) and his staff serve up food and positive experiences at the Canadian Honker.
Joe Powers (standing) and his staff serve up food and positive experiences at the Canadian Honker.

inside Mayo, but everywhere in the community,” says Joe Powers, owner of The Canadian Honker Restaurant and Catering in Rochester.

Powers, a Rochester native, cultivates an environment where employees are mindful of the medical visitor experience. “You never know what the customer may be going through,” he says. An estimated 50 percent to 60 percent of The Canadian Honker’s customers are Mayo patients and their families. “Sometimes, they come in with heavy hearts; they are going through difficult times. Our employees are conscious of the big picture and the importance of offering food for the soul.”

Outside of Mayo Clinic, the patient experience needs to be embracing and uplifting, according to Powers. “Mayo does a great job within their environment,” he says. “The outside is where all of us can also make a difference. Tourist communities work hard for visitors to have a positive experience. Mayo shouldn’t have to take care of that experience alone. As a community, we want all of our visitors to go back and talk about the good experience they had while visiting.”

Because of its location across from Saint Marys Hospital, the Canadian Honker becomes a home away from home for many patients and their families from all over the world. Restaurant staff often become extended family to many medical visitors — with the all-important warm smile, offering hugs and a listening ear when needed. Because many patients stay for weeks, staff have forged friendships.

“There are many heartwarming stories about hospitality making a difference in patient experience,” says Powers. “Sometimes that’s the best medicine of all.” His managers have been through Certified Tourist Ambassador (CTA) training and can provide accurate information about lodging, transportation and recreation to visitors. The Canadian Honker also features gluten-free options and other dietetically sensitive offerings, such as low-salt, low-fat and sugar-free foods that patients might require.

According to Powers, Mayo has partnered well with the community in patient experience efforts. “Mayo realized that all the partners in the hospitality sector are very important,” he says. “They opened up their arms to us, and have engaged the community as part of Destination Medical Center (DMC). Together, we will make our system stronger all the way around.”

From Powers’ perspective, transportation, roads and parks will be significant for DMC, along with city beautification and the arts. “Building the world’s premier destination medical community will require lots of options for visitors,” he says. Around the world, medical tourism is increasing in focus and competition. “Rochester and Minnesota have an advantage and can build upon the Mayo Clinic brand strength and reputation of excellence. Our community is poised and ready to embrace the growth.”