CHIVE Your Way to Dining Success
If you’ve been in senior living long enough, you’ve been asked to think about your favorite restaurant. Then you are asked how you would feel eating in that same restaurant every day for the rest of your life for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Suddenly, your favorite restaurant doesn’t look so appealing anymore.
Don’t despair! You can create a better dining experience in your community by integrating these five ideas into your dining program.
Choice – Could you ever imagine a TV channel dedicated to cooking? Farmer’s markets in every community? Restaurants offering varied ethnic cuisines beyond pizza and Chinese takeout? Things have changed. Cooking was once a necessary chore; now, it’s a hobby that many people enjoy. Choice is important not only in the menu selections, but also in the dining environment (fine dining, casual, buffet style, etc.) and meal schedules.
Healthy – Fresh and healthy food is now the expectation in senior living. No longer is it ok to serve processed, canned, or frozen foods. Today’s seniors are living longer and want to maintain a high quality of life as they age. They are more aware of nutrition and don’t look at healthy diets like the Mediterranean and Mayo Clinic diets as short-term fixes, but rather lifestyle changes.
Inviting – Is your dining program inviting? Look at all your dining venues (and keep in mind that cleanliness isn’t the only way residents will judge your dining services). How appealing is the space? Is it welcoming and comfortable? Is the staff dressed appropriately? Is the table set well? How’s the décor? Is the food colorful and plated properly with appropriate garnish? This will all have an impact on resident satisfaction.
Variety – Variety is the spice of life! This is especially true for seniors who often have diminished smell and taste receptors. Emphasizing flavors with sauces, spice rubs, and herbs can help with adding variety. Most chefs have a specific “taste” – a way of preparing foods. A great way to add variety is to swap chefs for a week, if possible.
Engaging – Restaurants are changing. They are becoming entertainment in themselves. Think open kitchens, foods prepared at the table, and drinks lit on fire. The more engaging the experience, the better the food will taste. This starts with service, which starts with hiring the right staff and making sure they have the training to provide excellent services. Special holiday menus, themed dinners, and live entertainment are all great ways to provide an engaging experience.