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Located in Brentwood, New Hampshire, Rockingham County Rehabilitation and Nursing Center is the largest nursing complex in the state. It provides services for skilled nursing; assisted living; short- and long-term occupational, physical, and speech therapy rehabilitation; and the county jail.
Prior to partnering with Glendale Senior Dining in March of last year, no other New Hampshire county nursing home, including its hourly workforce, had outsourced to a third-party food service dining management company. Rockingham County Rehabilitation and Nursing Center’s food staff had 18 vacancies which enabled them to meet the daily food preparation and service requirements for its existing staff, residents, and county jail inmates, but not much else.
Steve Woods, administrator and long-term care services director for Rockingham County knew that the rehabilitation and nursing center needed assistance in their existing kitchen, as well as help in designing and managing the county’s first-of-its-kind public café.
Having already outsourced their rehabilitation services, Woods and his staff decided the next natural service to outsource was dietary.
Rockingham County Rehabilitation and Nursing Center went out for the full bid process. Woods’s group did a comprehensive evaluation of each vendor that fit their criteria and met with the vendors and visited multiple client locations for feedback and food tastings. The rehabilitation and nursing center needed to make sure they were going to partner with the right company. The vendor that rose to the top by far was Glendale Senior Dining.
Glendale’s track record, resources, headquarters location, business approach, and promises to employees easily pushed them ahead of the competition.
The Glendale clients that Woods and his staff met with during the bid process made a positive impact. In seeing how several different operations were set up and managed, and seeing and tasting the food prepared and served by the kitchens, the Rockingham County Rehabilitation and Nursing Center team consistently saw that Glendale was flexible, creative, and innovative in their food service dining management approach. No two clients were the same except in how professional the food service staff was, how delicious the freshly prepared food tasted, and how satisfied everyone was in partnering with Glendale Senior Dining.
Glendale Senior Dining being headquartered in Manchester, New Hampshire was a positive for the rehabilitation and nursing center. Woods said, “It’s not that we need to see senior management daily or visit their offices, but having them only 20 minutes away is great.”
During their bid presentation, Glendale Senior Dining touted how they are an all-hands-on-deck type of company in all facets of the business, and particularly with big events. Woods said, “We’ve seen how they throw their whole management team at an event. It’s impressive. Everyone, including many senior managers, show up, dive in, and actively make sure things go very successfully each and every time.”
After talking with several existing Glendale clients and Glendale’s senior staff, Woods said, “Glendale had the resources, experience, innovative ways of looking at things, and no fear in trying new things. It’s what we needed with this multifaceted project and our organization in general.”
Stephen Rice, director of culinary services for Café Services, the parent company to Glendale Senior Dining, said, “When we first go into a new account, I spend time observing what’s in place to gain an understanding of the existing service. Then I begin implementing Glendale’s standards, training, and programs to move food service delivery to the next level.”
A large shift to the senior dining market overall includes the level and variety of cuisine that people expect – it’s a lot different than it was 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago. Baby boomers are having a significant impact on assisted living and senior housing food service programs as noted in this article on the Top 7 Senior Living Dining Trends for 2018.
One of Glendale Senior Dining’s promises to all clients is to offer existing food service staff the opportunity to keep their jobs with the transition. The Rockingham County Rehabilitation and Nursing Center staff were no different.
Woods said, “When we did the conversion with Glendale, they agreed that every single person in the department would be given an opportunity to continue work if they wanted to. It sent the right message when there was a lot of nervousness about the transition. It was a tangible, crystal-clear promise.”
Todd Lindsay, director of business development for Glendale Senior Dining, said, “We showed the county how to successfully retain the employees through the transition and it worked really well. It included a retention bonus for those who stayed during the process, grandfathered in the county employees on their original date of hire for their benefits and vacation time, and we also gave them a monthly stipend for twelve months toward their insurance benefit. The county managed the transition the right way.”
“As the transition was developing,” Woods said, “HR and I sat with the staff and made sure they understood and were fully informed about the changes to avoid surprises. We told them we were going to have the right kind of coverage and continue our great food service, as well as gain the ability to look at other ways of doing daily tasks and trying new and innovative things with a company that could offer more than a paycheck. As with any transition there was a lot of skepticism at first, but the open communication between everyone involved helped immensely.”
Glendale Senior Dining delivered on their promise in ways not generally seen with most service provider transitions, including having the district manager being onsite daily until things were running smoothly.
Of the district manager, David Martineau, Woods said, “From the first day, David was onsite every day until he was able to start spending less time here. And he’s still here whenever he’s needed. He’s my first go-to if anything comes up. We’re all a team getting the job done – there is no line between us and them."
Martineau said, “I was onsite for 6 months during the transition, walking the kitchen, working with the staff, answering questions, and getting everything up to Glendale standards. Several of Rockingham county’s food staff had been onsite for over 30 years, many over 20 years, and the 6 months allowed them to learn the personality of Glendale; our commitment to quality standards; our values of compassion, integrity, and doing the right thing for the residents; and to see the overall scope and breadth of the business.”
Woods added, “One of the reasons we went to Glendale was because we were having staffing issues. Glendale said they’d be able to fix that and they did, and all former county employees are now Glendale employees. They now have the support of a great organization that can take the great work we were doing and make it even better.”
Lindsay said, “Steve [Woods] needed additional resources to keep food service delivery operating and we were able to provide those. We retained Patricia Asmund, their Director of Food and Nutrition Services, who was in that position for 28 years. She is thrilled with the transition and the outcome and the amount of support that she’s gotten from Glendale. We were also able to help fill the existing vacancies to get the dining department fully staffed, and it has remained that way since the transition.”
“Of course there was a lot of nervousness about the transition, that’s natural,” Asmund said. “But when Glendale came in, they were awesome in how they talked to me and my staff. No one jumped ship and the quality of our food didn’t go down. We’re still doing things the way we did before, but more of it, including with the new wing upstairs that now offers room service.”
Jim Hecker, president of Glendale Senior Dining, said, “Taking on county dining employees and migrating them to our payroll is something that has never happened in New Hampshire before.”
The entire dining service staff now has professional uniforms – a Glendale Senior Dining requirement. A uniform may seem a small thing, but it makes a huge impact to staff morale and feeling of being part of a team. The food staff members have also learned and embraced Glendale Senior Dining’s standards, culture, and way of doing things.
“We have new equipment in the kitchen and are even able to accept credit cards now,” Asmund said.
From the start, the food service staff got to see Glendale’s personality. Martineau said, “They’d see Jim [Hecker] stop by for lunch and ask if potatoes needed peeling or if anything else needed to be done.”
The staff also became familiar with the director of culinary; the manager of training standards who assists with parties and manages all the training; the HR department that is always available by phone and can visit onsite; as well as accounts payable who processes all invoices. Martineau said, “Over that time, they really saw the support network and the value of Glendale and became comfortable with the transition.”
Hecker said, “This is the first time in New Hampshire’s history that a taxpayer-funded county facility has moved their complete food and nutrition operation to a private contractor.”
The units at the rehabilitation and nursing center were remodeled and now offer a new level of food service – room service with meals delivered from the café. Where most rehabilitation centers offer limited menus and choices for each meal, Rockingham County Rehabilitation and Nursing Center steps out of the box to offer this new dietary program to clients.
One food staff person is assigned to work with the dietary staff – similar to assisted living and skilled care – so when new residents arrive, diets, likes and dislikes, and any restrictions are discussed and noted in a database so that when food requests come in, the cook can be alerted immediately if a food order is out of sync with dietary limitations. Asmund said, “I have a lot of cooks in the kitchen, including one who works on textures, so if something needs to be ground or pureed, that request is easily covered.”
So a room service attendant actually knocks on a patient’s door to take the food order and while there, they can make recommendations. Martineau said, “During short stays, it’s not a big deal, but with someone in rehab a week or longer, they start to see the same menus. This level of personal touch enables staff to ask questions and make suggestions about something new in the kitchen that is available to try, for instance.”
Woods said, “For each meal, a patient can pick whatever they want off the menu. They aren’t limited to the traditional turkey and gravy or tortellini; there is a binder in the room that they can select from – similar to what you find in a hotel room.”
Martineau said, “One side is the regular café menu with sandwiches, salads, and grilled cheese, for example, and the other side features the soup, entrée, and vegetable starch specials of the day available for noon and five o’clock.”
Woods said, “Patients can place the order and have it delivered fresh and hot to their room. The feedback has been amazing; they appreciate it so much and it has made the dietary experience on the unit really strong. Patients can eat in their rooms – we worked with Glendale on the room design and tables are now included – or they go out to the common area to eat.”
Lindsay said, “Patients in the rehab wing also have access to the standard menu – which has all the special diets and that’s all made in the main kitchen, and that’s made with the other approximately 2,000 meals per day that are served at this location.”
Glendale’s food service staff also meet with assisted living staff and residents with an eye on the menus. Woods said, “They are always looking at ways to give the residents exactly what they want. And to that end, they meet with residents and interview them, creating an open dialogue the residents really appreciate.”
Woods said, “Glendale can move fast, that’s a nice thing. They are not stuck in their ways, if they need to switch gears, they just switch gears and we move forward. It’s very refreshing.”
Hecker said, “Room service menu ordering is another first in the county and a show of forward thinking and keeping the residents in mind.”
There is a brand new entrance to the main building and with Glendale Senior Dining’s assistance, Rockingham County Rehabilitation and Nursing Center designed and opened a brand new café that is open to the public. It’s located just inside the entrance.
Glendale Senior Dining has the resources needed to cover the spectrum of food service delivery and can call on staff when needed, whether it’s staffing for an event, or launching a café.
Lindsay said, “We helped the county properly design and equip the café so it would work easily with the existing kitchen behind it.”
Martineau has 12 years of café operation experience, where he operated 11 cafes and designed and built 6 cafes, so his experience included purchasing equipment; Hecker used to sell kitchen equipment. Martineau said, “The renovated employee café construction was underway when we came on board. We helped bring what the county had at that point to another level.”
Woods said, “This café concept is something no nursing home in New Hampshire has had before. Prior to the café, we simply had a staff dining room. Now we have a staff-only dining room as well as a publicly accessible café that serves all sorts of new and delicious food. Glendale wasn’t afraid to take on the challenge to design both spaces. We’ve worked with Glendale as a team from the start and we keep moving forward.”
The café is similar to what hospitals offer in that families, staff, visitors, or whoever can stop in for a snack or a meal during operational hours for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It has seating for 100 people and has already become quite popular for the lunch hour.
Campus residents can bring family and friends down for an ice cream cone, coffee, a sandwich, or just about anything.
Lindsay said, “It’s a change of scenery for residents. It’s also great for family members, because oftentimes if they’re visiting someone, they want a meal, and in most places they’re at the mercy of whatever fast food restaurant is in the neighborhood. The café has been successful on several different levels.”
Anyone familiar with Brentwood, knows its tallest feature, the blue water tower. “We came up with the name Water Tower Café because Brentwood’s huge blue water tower is right across the street,” Woods said. “It feeds the water for the entire complex and it’s been there forever and it has Rockingham County printed on it. Since it’s a feature you can’t miss, the café’s name is now the perfect connection to the biggest feature of this area.”
Hecker said “A fully functioning retail cafeteria with several serving stations, including a deli bar, salad bar, cook-to-order station, grill, and more, that is open to the public has never been done at a county facility before. It’s another first.”
“We took county operations and pushed them up a whole new level – it’s obviously very exciting,” Woods said.
Before meeting Glendale Senior Dining management, Woods hadn’t considered a 24/7 mini market on the campus. But when Glendale introduced the idea of a 24/7 staff-accessible micromarket to him and explained its benefits to round-the-clock county staff, its security, and the ease of running one, the concept was a hit. This 10’x16’ micromarket was designed into the plans and is located just off the main lobby. The room has three refrigerators and a freezer that contains sandwiches, paninis, soups, salads, and other food made fresh in the kitchen daily; along with other food, drinks, snacks, and even sundry items.
Lindsay said, “It’s completely new construction. When the café is closed after dinner, the micromarket picks up the balance. Badged county employees can go in there at any time to get a fresh salad, entrée, cookies, baked goods, gum, mints, and other treats; or sundries like Kleenex and toothpaste.”
It gives the county staff yet another choice when it comes to food. They can now go to the café during its operational daytime hours, or they can access the staff-only dining room which has refrigerators and a microwave, or they can swipe their badge to access the micromarket. They can bring their own meal, or bring part of it and buy part of it – the bottom line is they now have the flexibility to mix and match every meal.
“The county has never had this technology before,” Woods said. “It’s locked and videoed for security and all payments are made with a debit or credit card. It’s a fantastic benefit for our around-the-clock nursing staff and other employees.”
Hecker said, “The micromart is also something a New Hampshire county hasn’t done before.”
The multifaceted composition of Rockingham County Rehabilitation and Nursing Center is made up of 260 skilled nursing and assisted living residents covering; 18 rehab patients; 400 staff and employees over a 24-hour period; as well as 280 county inmates.
The county inmates are benefiting from the new food service contract with the county, too. Woods said, “Food is prepared in our kitchen, put into racks, and picked up by correctional officers in a van. Three hot and fresh meals a day are delivered to the jail across the street and distributed accordingly.”
Lindsay said, “All told, we’re producing food for about 2,000 meals a day for Rockingham County Rehabilitation and Nursing Center.”
Martineau added, “It’s a unique account with so many different parts of the business under one footprint and food all coming out of one kitchen.”
Producing food for the prison can be considered a business in itself. The food staff manages the 16,000 meals a month, which includes production to organization to proper holding temperatures to portions to shipping the meals over to the jail three times a day.
If producing the daily food for employees, staff, residents, patients, visitors, general public and county inmates seems to be more than enough to impress, Glendale goes over and above that. They consistently cater and provide delicious fresh food and exceptional service for any size event from department head meetings to special celebrations and beyond for residents and staff on an as-requested basis.
Lindsay said, “We’ve done a number of catered events at Rockingham County Rehabilitation and Nursing Center this past year. We helped them with their kickoff of the opening of the rehab unit in January which saw a couple hundred people. Governor Sununu attended, as well as several other dignitaries and politicians and friends of the facility, along with people interested in seeing what the campus was doing. It went quite well.”
From L to R: David Martineau District Manager, Governor Sununu, Patty Asmund Director of Food & Nutrition Services and John DeCourcy Senior District Manager
Rice described the grand opening reception as a cocktail event with food stations on two floors. The dinner menu included wild mushroom medley crostini, English cucumber topped with red beet infused goat cheese, pretzel bites, buffalo chicken bites, scallops & bacon, and mac & cheese martinis, among other delectable food. Glendale Senior Dining loves finding local vendors to partner with, including microgreen greenhouses that can offer fresh garden vegetables year round and are becoming popular in New England. Rice was able to attain fresh tomatoes from Backyard Farms out of Maine and beautiful salad greens from lef Farms in Loudon, New Hampshire for this event.
Rice said, “We really do our best to work with local vendors and know people like to know where their food comes from. For this event, we had a lot of cheeses from Cabot, Grafton Village, and Shelburne farms in Vermont and mushrooms from Mousam Valley in Maine, for instance.” Descriptions of the food items and where they were sourced from were on printed cards at the food stations and on TV screens on the upper floor.
“I always work closely with the onsite staff with events,” Rice said. “Rockingham is a huge facility with a large food staff, and they have their own baker on site, which is very rare nowadays. I worked with her, Sylvie [Whitcomb], on the small (one- to two-bite treats) dessert shooters. We had a chocolate mousse with shaved white chocolate and an apple cobbler with caramel cream.”
As guests were leaving the event, they could visit a dessert and coffee table. “The guests could grab a bag with a fresh-baked cookie to take home, along with a hot cup of coffee. And we had worked with Rockingham County to put a sticker on the bag with the Rockingham symbol, so the guests had a little token of the event, too.”
Martineau said, “It was a level of catering the county hadn’t experience before. Stephen Rice’s different ideas for different stations was a big hit. For instance, at the pasta station, we sautéed fresh pasta and vegetables and protein right in the serving area so everyone had the sights and smells, and the food was fantastic. The ‘shooters’ for dessert were sweet and succulent so you didn’t feel guilty eating them, and they were cute as well.”
Woods said, “Todd [Lindsay] and David [Martineau] and other district managers were here, along with our regular onsite food service team. The food was amazing and they did exactly what they said they were going to do. They made sure every aspect of the event, everything we wanted to do, was handled and went off without a hitch. It was off the charts and very well received.”
In May, Glendale Senior Dining helped the Rockingham campus celebrate National Nursing Home Week. “This was for the staff in all the departments,” Woods said. “Glendale tied the food and meals into our theme of a road trip around the country. Each day was something new, fun, and enjoyed by all. Glendale tied food into the theme every single day – be it snacks or main meals – and they were just so involved in the process, so interested in making it a fun week for the staff. They were so creative with all they did, they made it fun with decorations and food choices.”
Asmund said, “There was a different destination each day. French fries and cheesy fries were featured on beach day; for Texas day, we had a Texas burger; on Las Vegas day we featured pizza; and Friday was Idaho day and we had a baked potato bar. Every year we do something different for the week, and it’s always fun.”
The county complex hosted a large Fourth of July event. Woods said, “It was mammoth and Glendale was right there in force. David was on vacation in Maine, but it was such an important event that he came down. We didn’t ask him to be here, but he told us he would be and he was. It was unbelievable. What company does that? Glendale Senior Dining does. It was such a personal touch. We were all out there all night cooking food and serving it and integrating with the community, which is really important. And to have all the Glendale folks there with our whole team just spoke volumes about the relationship.”
“It was a hot night, but it was great event,” Asmund said. “We had the favorites such as fried dough, sodas, hamburgers, hot dogs, cheeseburgers, and cotton candy and popcorn.” There was a bubble machine and hula hoops for little kids. A hayride went out behind the jail. A DJ kept the crowd moving with fun dance songs. Asmund said, “New this year were refrigerators from Pepsi, thanks to Glendale’s connections, which kept drinks colder longer than the usual buckets full of ice. And we had a last call this year before we closed up before the fireworks started. It was the fastest cleanup I’ve ever experienced, since we had so many people helping this year.”
As well, Glendale has also provided Rockingham County Rehabilitation and Nursing Center with extras such as ice cream trucks and coffee trucks making rounds to staff and employees between the jail, the nursing home, and the courthouse. “We’ve done some interesting things there,” Lindsay said. “And we’re always coming up with something else.”
Like Asmund, Whitcomb is a long-term county employee who has found the transition to Glendale Senior Dining to be working out quite well. She works in the county complex’s fully functioning bakery who makes all types of fresh baked items every single day for the café, micromarket, short- and long-term residents, as well as the county jail.
Asmund said, “Sylvie’s awesome with everything she makes and she helps the company save money by baking products and significantly reducing the need to purchase premade prepackaged desserts. She makes so many delicious things like pudding, custard, cakes, scones, cobblers, cookies, and pies, as well as homemade rolls on Sundays.”
Martineau said, “Having someone with a passion for baking onsite is quite a bonus for Rockingham, since a lot of companies go with frozen muffins, breads, and desserts.”
Woods is quite impressed with Glendale and all they’ve done and continue to do with Rockingham County Rehabilitation and Nursing Center. He said, “Jim and his team are not afraid to try new things. If they don’t know something, they figure out how to do it and that kind of thinking is so important. These are unchartered waters. Some of the things we’re doing here have never been done in New Hampshire or in a nursing home before.”
To other counties considering outsourcing their food service management, Woods said, “Don’t be afraid to look at outside contractors; with the right partner, the sky is the limit. There is an opportunity to take the great work that counties do and to add services, expertise, and support to help improve the overall care of the residents and assisted living and nursing home and the jail. It’s the best of both worlds to combine a county with the right contractor.”
Asmund said, “Glendale has the resources for anything I need. If I need to hire someone, I tell them and they get the job posted. If I have any issues with anything I can call David and he is always there. My tasks haven’t changed much other than learning a billing system. Their extensive resources are a benefit, especially when I want to offer something new. I don’t have to go out to bid for a service any more. I can pick from a great list of multiple local vendors that Glendale already works with and where they already have quantity discounts. And if they don’t have a particular recommendation, they will go out and find the vendor – it saves me a lot of time.”
Hecker said, “Rockingham County Rehabilitation and Nursing Center is a huge operation that runs extremely well. It’s been a successful transition from the county to our company. A large part of the success is that we had one of our district managers onsite to run the transition process to ensure a successful outcome. We do what it takes to help our clients succeed.”
Martineau said, “We didn’t replace everything at Rockingham; we enhanced what they were already doing.” Dietitians are on staff with training and menu building and overall help with work load; when there is an event, Glendale Senior Dining’s culinary team is on hand at the event – this includes the company president to other district managers to whoever else is needed to support the event. Martineau said, “Food is what we do; any aspect of food service delivery is what we excel at. We came in to help the county run efficiently and provide a level of support and experience they hadn’t had before.”
Rice said, “I remember touring the Rockingham campus early on and saying ‘wow, it’s large.’ But food service delivery is what we do, and we do it well. We help clients do what they want in regard to food service delivery and strive to exceed their expectations. We can provide top-notch service, especially for special events. We spend a lot of time and resources on building our culinary programs and working with our vendors and we’re very proud to provide a great service.”
Woods said, “The Glendale folks have been incredible. Everything they promised, they have delivered and more. It’s been a great experience and partnership. They have the resources, and if they don’t, they go out and get what’s needed. We’re creating all sorts of new things, so it’s an exciting time for sure.”