Start Increasing Your Senior Living Community Occupancy Today with This Comprehensive and Step-By-Step Guide to Outsourcing Food Services

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Photo of grilled salmon prepared by senior living food service.

Every prospective resident, or family member of a prospective resident, has a unique list of expectations when selecting a senior living retirement community, but there is one common item on every list – dining. Everyone has to eat.

A LeadingAge 2017 dining management and senior living survey garnered 178 responses that rated and ranked dining program elements. The majority of respondents, 68%, were not currently outsourcing their food dining management and their top item of concern was quality and consistency of food. It rated 4.85 on a scale of 1 (least important) to 5 (most important).

Photo of senior lliving food dining management.

When you have prospective residents visit your senior living community, it’s common to offer them a meal. If the prospective resident has an incredible dining experience, they’re likely to continue qualifying the retirement community on other factors, such as care, location, and other amenities and factors that are important to them, or their family member. Having a poor food dining experience, or one that simply doesn’t meet their expectations, can be a definite deal breaker and instantly take the community out of contention.

Glendale Senior Dining’s strong and consistent growth since its inception gives senior living communities the chance to transition from an unsatisfactory food service provider, or being a self-operator, to partnering with experts who deliver exceptional dining and hospitality programs – individually tailored to each location.

Does Outsourcing Food Services Increase Occupancy Rates for Senior Living Communities?

Photo of cheese and sausage appetizer prepared by senior dining food service.

Although there is no way to scientifically prove that occupancy rates definitively increase when food service management is outsourced, there is a lot of feedback that supports how in-house or a poor food service dining management company can push potential residents away.

Paul Charlton, the vice president of marketing for Taylor Community, a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Laconia, New Hampshire said, “When I talk about dining, I think of it as being the dining experience. It’s not just about the quality of food preparedness and freshness or if the food is the right temperature. It’s setting a standard for hospitality, which happens to involve dining. I draw back on my earlier involvement in a family-owned country inn and restaurant where the innkeeper was an important part of the overall dining experience, meaning did they remember your name, and greet you, and remember a bit about your family? It’s a lot more than food.”

Benefits of Partnering with an Experienced and Passionate Food Service Dining Provider

Photo of senior dining food service team.

Many senior living communities share a common struggle: providing a consistently exceptional dining experience to its residents, guests, and staff. Communities that outsource their dining to a food service provider can free themselves from the struggle of managing food service to focus on other parts of their business/community, such as keeping occupancy rates high.

Dining service providers focus on the importance of delivering a high-quality dining experience; they are passionate about the food and the quality of service they offer to senior living communities and know how to deliver top-notch hospitality. The right outsourced dining management company will integrate with your senior housing community as a partner and become part of the brand.

Great dining service providers have their own recruitment tools and ways to source the best employees to help communities become peak performers in delivering the dining experience.

Photo of high quality specialty items prepared by the senior dining food service.

What Are the Qualities of a Top Dining Service Provider?

Top-quality food. An outstanding dining service provider will be focused on fresh, locally sourced food.

Solid recruitment tools. An experienced dining service provider knows how to find the right people for the positions that will keep a dining program running well, consistently.

Great employee training. Dining service providers invest time and money into their employees. Great providers offer hands-on training, certification, and boots-on-the-ground supervision at both the unit level and the corporate level. They help employees learn their current role on the team, as well as help them with a career path.

Todd Lindsay, director of business development for Glendale Senior Dining said:

“Glendale Senior Dining spends a lot of time identifying local vendors of distinction for each client community. We have a proven way to source great employees and our district managers provide supervision to their managers on continual ways to enhance and improve the programs. We have a formula for success that others in the industry just don’t have.”

The Right Food Service Company Solves Dining Staffing Issues and Enables Quality and Consistency of Food and Service, Enhancing the Hospitality Measures of Senior Living Facilities.

Photo of senior living food service chef and team member.

“We’re in the business of providing hospitality,” Todd said, “which is delivering restaurant-quality food and great service to the residents at every single meal we serve.”

Paul, of Taylor Community said:

“I think that dining is one of those experiences for prospects who are visiting a community in the exploration stage that gives a strong indicator of what goes on throughout the organization to some degree. How friendly is the dining room? How clean is it? What are the standards? Is it an attractive menu that’s suggestive of higher end or is it a piece of copy paper that somebody ran off on a printer with a clip art picture of food? Food service and hospitality can help set a standard.”

A Majority of Senior Living Executives Believe Dining Services Play a Significant Role in a Family's Selection of, and Satisfaction with, Senior Living Facilities.

Photo of senior living food service display.

When involved in the decision-making process to put a loved one into senior care, the family has a vested interest in making sure their loved one finds a safe environment that is professionally managed and staffed, as well a dining program that offers variety and maximum nutrition. It’s important to have confidence that the loved one is going to be satisfied with the food choices, that they are not going to be hungry, and that they are going to have their dietary needs addressed.

Todd said, “Glendale’s mission, from the hospitality and nutrition standpoints, is to make sure we are meeting and exceeding residents’ needs at every single meal we serve.”

According to the 2017 LeadingAge Survey, a significant majority of communities upgraded their dining programs to make their communities more attractive to prospects.

How Does the Right Food Service Management Company Increase Occupancy?

Photo of senior living food service team prepping meals.

The right food service dining provider will partner with a senior living community and become part of that community and its brand.

Joe Carella, executive director of Scandinavian Living Center, in West Newton, Massachusetts said, “We can hire professional chefs – and they cook. But when you have someone who loves to cook and who puts their heart and love into their cooking, that’s what makes a difference. And that’s what you get from Glendale – you get the human touch.”

Glendale Senior Dining is continually training their employees, who are passionate about food and love what they do, which enriches the senior living communities they are involved with. Food service employees at all levels, from onsite to senior company management, are involved with special occasions for the residents that include celebrating the obvious milestones such as Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day; and celebrating some of the more obscure holidays such as Ground Hog Day or National Meatball Day or National Muffin Day.

Todd said, “We have a lot of fun with famous and not-so-famous holidays – they are monotony breakers and we love having surprises for residents as they walk into the dining room, or café, or bistro, such as an omelet station for breakfast or exhibition cooking for dinner.”

Photo of senior living food service chinese new year menu.

Offering a variety in daily menus, having special weekly or monthly themes, and showcasing different styles of cooking at sporadic times can differentiate one senior dining provider from another – and a dining program that is full of variety and involves dining staff who become part of the community can ultimately help a location keep occupancy high.

Prospective Senior Living Residents Should Always Be Invited to Have a Meal While Visiting a Community.

A great senior living marketing strategy is to make a positive and lasting impression by offering prospective residents a meal in the dining area during a busy time. The right dining provider will make a positive impression by enveloping the guest in the entire dining hospitality experience.

Paul said, “It’s really powerful when I bring Taylor Community prospects to lunch and there is a lot of activity in the bistro. It’s great when you get the staff, who are really hustling, but at the same time smiling and paying attention and having fun, notice me and say, ‘Hey, Paul, how are you doing?’ And that they do with any resident. It’s not just about the dining, it’s about the whole atmosphere and the culture and the friendliness of the people who are all here.”

Joe said, “We have a philosophy here at Scandinavian Living Center called community-centered living – we feel that a natural human connection is very important. Glendale provides a really nice human touch to all that they do, and that’s really important to me and probably important to a lot of places.”

Creating Memories and Experiences for the Senior Housing Community Through the Food Service Program

Photo of specialty cupcakes prepared by the senior living food service.

The right food service delivery partner will excel at creating memories and enjoyable experiences for residents without shying away from challenges – like launching with a new account on a major holiday. With so many responsibilities in general for launching a new account, such as introducing new people and new ways of doing things to the community, adding a major holiday to the mix adds an entirely different level of planning for a transition. Glendale Senior Dining has launched new clients near major holidays, and even on a major holiday.

Photo of senior living resident at dessert station.

The Taylor Community’s partnership with Glendale Senior Dining started on Easter Sunday. The community has 123 independent living cottages spread out over 104 acres, 57 independent living apartments, 50 assisted living apartments, 10 secure memory care units, and 40 skilled nursing units.

Glendale focused on providing an exceptional experience for residents and their families while keeping the transition smooth, and they did.

Todd said, “We had many people, including the president and CEO of our company at the event. Some carved the prime rib and lamb, another made eggs benedict, and another served salmon. We had an incredible menu and it was a great turnout for Easter Sunday. As a direct result of the successful event where residents saw what we’re capable of, we were inundated the following week with catering orders that had not been the norm for that location.”

Glendale’s goal is to have people leave the dining room happy with their dining experience. Whether it’s an ice cream sundae bar or waffles in the morning or an extravagant-themed dinner, or a catered event in someone’s apartment, Glendale delivers exceptional food service each time based on a simple equation: simple things done well equals a very happy resident.

Paul said, “The Easter brunch that they did was just not to be believed. I was here with ten of my family members and everybody just thought it was the best they had, they enjoyed the food immensely, and experienced the best service.”

Joe said, “Glendale’s focus is to keep everyone happy and the memory of a good day is what is important here at Scandinavian Living Center – for our residents, as well as for the more than 2,000 visitors we have each month.” Scandinavian Living Center is an assisted living center with 40 apartments, but the community’s philosophy is community-centered living, so 50% of the building is common space. The location also features outpatient rehabilitation programs.

What Are Some Challenge Areas and How Does Outsourcing Senior Living Dining Management to the Right Partner Solve These Issues?

Photo of senior dining food service team.

The hourly and management staffing component of food service delivery has changed significantly in the past decade by moving from a low priority to the top.

From the 2017 LeadingAge survey, the top two activities for senior living executives to support workforce stability were completing a wage and benefit marketplace analysis and raising wages for non-exempt employees.

Glendale Senior Dining has a dedicated person who does nothing but recruiting and uses every sourcing tool, from conventional methods to online recruitment tools and social media, to find the best people for any available food service position in a senior living community.

Workforce stability. The starting point for an experienced food service dining provider is to absorb the existing onsite employees, keeping familiar faces in place for the community. There is generally a probationary period after absorption, and if someone isn’t the right fit for that location, they can be counseled individually to find another location where they may be a better fit.

Todd said, “We don’t throw people away. There’s value in everybody and everybody brings something to the table, but the goal is to make sure we’re getting the most qualified best fit for every job that we have available.”

Specialized employee training. As the food service staff learns how the new company runs, and learns their individual role in the kitchen, the food service management provider performs a needs assessment to identify areas of training needed. An experienced dining provider will create a training calendar that incorporates staff needs as well as regulatory requirements that need to be addressed.

Todd said, “We’ll create a year-long training calendar as a result of that and that’s how the training process begins.”

Career path opportunities. When a community outsources their dining services, they enable food service employees the chance at a career. Self-operated locations can end up with a stagnant staff, since there is no way for promotion within the kitchen unless a current employee leaves. There is also the risk that the dining program becomes stale and monotonous. A professional dining provider will encourage their qualified and trained employees to pursue more responsibilities, if they want it, since there is plenty to do.

Todd said, “If someone is interested in moving to a different state or interested in getting into something more involved than they’re currently doing, we have the tools, we have the structure, we have the career paths that enable them to move forward with their own career development. Our programs are very vibrant.”

Food variety and menu options and alternatives. Residents like to have options for their meals, and even if there is an impressive menu, it goes a long way to meeting expectations if a resident can make off-menu requests now and then. In a typical household, people tend to plan their dinner as they leave the house in the morning. It’ll be a specific meal, or leftovers from the night before. There usually isn’t a lot of variety in a common household refrigerator. A food service provider offering six or more different items for each meal enables residents to make different selections each day, if they want to.

Todd said, “I don’t think anyone else offers the alternatives that we do on a day-to-day basis. When a resident comes into the dining room, there might be two primary choices on the menu and then six to eight alternatives beyond that. So, for example, if a baked haddock and pork tenderloin were on the menu for this afternoon, and a resident didn’t want either of those, they can make an off-menu request.”

Glendale has an unstated rule that if product is in the house, they will make it. “To continue with the example,” Todd said, “If someone says, ‘I appreciate the haddock and the tenderloin, and your other alternatives today, but I really want a cheeseburger,’ our staff would go back to see if the ingredients are available, and if so, be happy to make the cheeseburger, or a chicken breast, or a chef’s salad, or a baked potato, or whatever they might like. We have a lot to offer when it comes to food variety and alternatives.”

Photo of high-quality appetizers for senior living event.

Food quality and purchasing arrangements. The best meals need the best-quality ingredients. A food dining provider that has the passion and commitment to finding the highest quality food in the marketplace and wanting to purchase from local vendors can enhance a community’s dining program.

Sourcing local is a win for everyone involved – the resident gets above-average product, the local vendor gets the order, and the food service provider is helping with the carbon footprint by avoiding shipping products in from out of the area.

Todd said, “We work hard to develop local vendors of distinction to purchase as much local product as we can possibly source – that could be fresh baked goods, dairy products, produce, cheeses, coffee, seafood, or anything else.”

Cost control (effectiveness). Being able to keep a close eye on figures, meeting budgets, and spending money effectively can be challenging while also managing a kitchen staff and menus. An experienced food service provider knows the ins and outs of the costs for running a kitchen, how to best plan for food use and minimize waste, and how to help clients set and stay within their budget.

Todd said, “We keep a tight focus on our metrics. All levels of management, from chef manager to the company president, look at the metrics every single week. We make sure that every account is running in line with, or beating, its budget.”

Foodservice integration with other departments. Good food service providers integrate with the community they serve and that includes working with other departments. Food is a common theme between the dining room and social and activity departments, for instance.

“There are so many ways we can help one another with things they are working on,” Todd said. “They may be making cookies, or they may be frosting cupcakes that we made. Oftentimes, the activities department helps us enhance a promotion by enabling residents to, for example, make flower arrangements or other decorations for the dining tables, especially for celebrations such as Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Day, or St Patrick’s Day.”

Finding ways for departments to collaborate with the dining room helps keep the residents busy – they enjoy being engaged and it can be rewarding, for example, to find a flower arrangement they made on the table they are dining at.

The 2017 LeadingAge survey had integration of dining with other departments in the senior living community rating a 4.35 in importance for communities that outsourced their dining program and 4.09 for those that kept food service in-house.

Ease of Access to Experienced Dining and Senior-Level Foodservice Management Expertise, and Numerous Culinary Resources

A common underrated area of senior dining is the access to high-quality culinary resources. By enabling residents to enjoy the high-level of dining service in the main dining room, in a private function room, their own apartment, or somewhere on the grounds of the community, a great dining provider enhances the community’s ability to exceed a resident’s needs.

Todd said, “We literally take care of every single detail of a catered function to ensure that it is perfect. We’ve recognized that as people in the boomer generation enter senior living, they want to continue the lifestyle they’ve been accustomed to – which revolves around a lot of entertaining and celebrating with friends, where food is at the center.”

Here is an article on how baby boomers are redefining living well in senior care facilities.

“We’re happy to provide any or all culinary arrangements for any event at any of our clients’ locations for any resident,” Todd said. “We have deep culinary resources and love to help take the stress out of planning, setting up, serving, and cleaning up for a family event or special occasion.”

You can read more about enhancing casual dining experiences by offering alternatives for assisted living food services.

Partnering with a Senior Living Foodservice Management Company Enables Community Management to Focus on Other Areas, Such as Occupancy

When a senior living community outsources its food service management needs to a professional and experienced company, it is, in essence, hiring a professional department head who will take all the worry, concern, and management for food service off its plate. You can then shift your attention to other needs in your senior living community, such as increasing occupancy. A contract food service management company can source the best employees for your community and handle all benefits, salary, training, worker’s compensation, and more. When dining is a company’s only focus, they are entrenched in every aspect of the food service management needs, so you don’t need to be.

Todd said, “We really and truly become a partner of the leadership of the community and an extension of what they need to have to ensure that they are keeping occupancy high, keeping beds full, and from a hospitality standpoint, every possible thing is being done and the resident has ultimate satisfaction with the dining program. A senior living community typically doesn’t have the resources to do those things. It’s become a highly evolved and specialized field.”

With the right food service and hospitality partner, the senior living community staff is freed up to do what they do best – focus on their core business and on keeping beds full.

Joe said, “It really helps when you have good food and good food service people. And when that part of the operation is worry free, it frees organizations up to be visionary or creative and work on other quality programming.”

Working with a Consultative Strategic Partner with Extensive Industry Insight

Partnering with experienced food service industry professionals gives you access to people who can answer any question you have related to the costs of running a kitchen, including budgeting and finding the best prices for food and labor. Whether it’s replacing an oven or refrigerator, or expanding or building a new kitchen, the right food service industry partner can help you budget the project correctly or, better, take on the entire responsibility for you.

Todd said, “We get very involved with any part of the process, and can offer assistance when needed. For instance, we can help coordinate sourcing for quality equipment or new projects, and help the community understand what will happen in the upcoming year by making improvements now versus later. We help create budgets based on real numbers to minimize the guesswork. Through our purchasing arrangements and through other tools that we utilize, we can accurately determine what the financial outcome will be.”

Program flexibility by design. Professional food service dining companies offer flexible programs so that your community gets the senior living dining management services it needs. Every community is unique and should have a dining program that fits its residents’ needs. Simply because a dining program works in one community does not mean it will work in another.

Todd said, “No two of our clients are remotely alike. We work very carefully and closely with each client to determine what the right program is for each specific location and then build that program accordingly. We focus on providing a highly customized and specialized program for every location that we operate.”

Glendale’s standards are the same regardless of the client’s program, too: top-quality food; the most-talented labor for every account, regardless of size; and, also a standard, each community sees senior management weekly.

“The end game,” Todd said, “is optimized resident satisfaction in every instance.”

Access to diet and nutrition professionals. Each senior living community should have diet and nutrition professionals available for residents. Glendale has its own network of nutrition experts, particularly registered dietitians (RDs), who can be available at a moment’s notice to help a resident determine the proper individual diet that ensures optimum nutrition. RDs scrutinize and sign off on all menus to ensure Glendale is hitting the mark from a nutritional standpoint. In locations with nursing components, great care is taken to ensure that residents’ dietary needs are met from a regulatory standpoint and a lot of attention is given to meeting or exceeding nutritional requirements. In all locations, remaining diligent toward allergies is a priority.

Profound focus on hospitality. Food service and hospitality go hand in hand. A professional contract food service management company lives and breathes hospitality in all aspects of providing food service.

Todd said, “We are really a hospitality-driven company. Hospitality drives the kind of people that we hire, and the food that we buy. It drives our promotional calendar. It’s at the core of everything that we do.”

Regarding Scandinavian Living Center, Joe said, “We really have a lot of home cooking here. We do catered events, too, so that means Glendale is involved in doing the food – and it’s fantastic. When we did a big gala celebrating 100 years in the city of Newton, Glendale was there, in an outside hall, handling everything related to the food. Everybody was blown away by the food and the hospitality.”

With Taylor Community, Paul said, “Every one of the Glendale staff here loves being here, and it can make a huge difference on a person’s meal. Everyone loves being acknowledged, and when Sylvia comes to the bistro for lunch and the first person there on the cash register says, ‘Hi Sylvia, how are you today? Boy it’s great that we finally got some warm weather.’ Sylvia is going to feel welcomed. The greeting is spontaneous, it’s sincere, the staff knows the resident’s names. And then the effect is compounded when Sylvia turns toward the deli counter and the employee says, “Hi Sylvia, how are you?” It’s small hospitality touches like that makes residents feel warm, welcomed, and important – and that’s before they even touch the food.”

Senior-level leadership involvement in day-to-day operations. Individual attention and feeling like your community is part of a family is possible with the right food service provider.

Joe said, “Glendale’s senior management is very accessible. Glendale is a great organization to partner with because their doors are always open, and they truly want us to be successful.”

The district manager shouldn’t be a stranger to your location and you should know the company’s president. Glendale’s senior management is involved with all company accounts – whether it’s visiting or phoning to check in on things, or being on hand serving food to residents during a large event.

Todd said, “We are an extremely hands-on company, where everyone does everything from paperwork to food prep to cleanup. Our president is in accounts every single day. We’re involved day-to-day decision making, day-to-day guidance for our accounts, and we’re 100% dialed into ensuring the success of a dining program in every one of our accounts. And that comes from the top, straight down – everybody in the organization. That’s how we do things."

Boots-on-the-ground resources. When first launching with a food service dining company, you want to feel confident that the transition will be smooth, and the process has a strong foundation. Glendale’s senior management is onsite with a new client launch on the first day, and doesn’t leave until the staff is settled in and able to handle anything that comes up.

Todd added, “We have the boots-on-the-ground resources to ensure that transitions are successful.”

A large benefit to Glendale is that it is one of three divisions of the parent company, Café Services. Management and staff from every division is available to help the other divisions as needed with staffing of kitchens or special events. Glendale also has access to professionals in Café Services who are well versed in the corporate dining experience and are very retail-minded.

“And of course,” Todd said, “The school operators in the Fresh Picks Café division know how to squeeze pennies, so there are efficiencies that we’ve learned from them that help us as well. It’s like the 3-legged stool – great support all around.”

A Step-By-Step Guide for Transitioning to Outsourced Food Service Management

Making a smooth transition to an outsourced dining management company is possible, especially when you partner with an experienced food service management company that is focused on your community’s needs and is driven to help you excel.

A family-focused dining management company with the ability to customize a food service dining program for your location can make your residents feel like part of a close-knit community versus being a small member in a conglomerate of other communities.

Joe said, “Before transitioning to Glendale, our food service provider was a large corporation and I felt like a tiny stone in the ocean. Now, with Glendale, it’s like being in a pool with friends.”

Step 1: Seek out recommendations from other senior living communities that have outsourced their dining services is your best first step. Be open to visiting locations and dining onsite to experience what the food service provider has to offer. It’s not solely about the food, but about the full dining experience.

It’s one thing for a company to get a community, but it’s another to retain it. Residents and communities expect their needs to be met, and better yet, exceeded on a daily basis. Can a large, corporate, one-program-fits-all-communities offer the satisfaction that your residents seek?

Glendale Senior Dining tailors the dining program for each client. There is no program that is identical to another because every community has different needs. Glendale provides senior-level supervision of each and every account; this includes senior management being onsite and involved in special occasion events, as well as checking in with accounts on a weekly basis. You’ll know the president of the company, as well as other senior managers and be able to talk to them whenever you need to.

Step 2: Have current food team members absorbed by new provider. During a transition to a new food service dining provider, the provider should manage the entire transition, and employees are probably the single most important aspect of that transition. Absorbing your current team is a benefit to the community and the provider because it minimizes the change effect in the dining room with the residents. Residents like seeing the same faces every day.

Todd said, “We like absorbing the current team. We observe for a while to understand any training needs that are required and then we build an annual training calendar to ensure that we are going to get everyone to the next level successfully. And at the same time, we orient those employees to our company, how the benefits work, how the pay schedules work, how the schedule is going to change or stay the same – a total orientation to how we do things and what our company is all about. And we’re really good at that. It’s an important step to a successful transition.”

Glendale believes that the employees are the most-critical step and strive to make them feel comfortable, wanted, and part of something bigger.

Step 3: Immediately assess training needs and implement training. Through observations, the dining provider can identify the best path to training for the upcoming year based on what they see from employees during the early part of the transition. The other piece considered for a training plan is any regulatory requirements that need to be addressed, such as choke prevention, allergy awareness, and so on.

Todd said, “We ensure that through our own observations and regulatory requirements that need to be addressed, that we are exactly where we need to be when it comes to employee training. And training is ongoing, it never stops.”

Step 4: Implement a new menu with care. Change may be constant, but no one really ever enjoys it, so transitioning to a new food service provider should be as non-disruptive as possible. Residents will generally have an inkling that changes will be happening in the dining room. And while keeping the staff in place during the transition is important, so is not making any drastic changes to the menu on the first day.

Todd explained, “We will typically leave the existing menu in place for up to two or three weeks after we take over since our goal is not to create any conflict in the dining room on day one. To avoid conflict in the dining room with the residents, we leave their existing menu in place and slowly phase in our menu once we’ve learned the culture and the needs of that particular residential population. And we found that to be very appropriate. We spend time gaining the residents’ confidence and learn what they want and don’t want.”

Step 5: Know that the food service provider will take the time to understand the cultural anomalies of a new community and design specific programming to optimize positive outcomes. No two communities are the same; some can have ethnic influences, others can have religious influences, for example. It’s important for a food service provider to understand the senior living community and how particular influences are at play.

Todd said, “We take a step back in a new location to gain an understanding of the residential population to ensure that we are architecting a program and a menu that’s going to be successful for all of the residents. We consider things like heritage, religion, race, and so on, because those things matter, and residents appreciate when the food service provider recognizes them.”

Joe said, “We have a menu that makes sense for the city of Newton, for this demographic. Traditional assisted living usually is for seniors, but SLC is for all ages and we address that.”

Step 6: Ensure there are regularly scheduled two-way communication sessions directly with the residential population to insure their hospitality needs are carefully achieved. It’s important for a food service provider to participate in food committees, if a community has one, or to have a way for residents to offer and receive feedback on their comments or suggestions. The 2017 LeadingAge survey showed that most communities were confident in being able to measure the impact of their dining programs on resident satisfaction.

Todd said, “We typically are very involved with the food committees that locations have by having one of the senior managers sitting in on a meeting. I remember sitting in on a committee a couple years ago when a resident raised his hand and said, ‘I’m diabetic. Why is vanilla the only flavor of sugar-free cream available?’ I said he could have other flavors, but he said, ‘no, they told me that’s all that’s available.’ The manager was there and confirmed vanilla was the only choice. So I contacted our grocery company and asked why we only have sugar-free vanilla ice cream. It was all the company was ever asked for, so the only flavor that was stock. As a result of that food committee meeting, we now have eight different sugar-free flavors available to all of our accounts on a rotating basis.”

The opportunity for feedback and improvement is important for retaining a high level of community satisfaction. Todd added, “We want to be serving what residents want to be eating, so we keep communication channels open.”

Paul noted, “We have food survey forms and open communication from residents to dining services where they can voice ideas and talk about recipes or choices or complain or any number of things. I like to share that openness with people when they visit because it is also throughout the organization. Our mission is to serve the folks who live here, so we want to be receptive and responsive to their likes, dislikes, and ideas in dining and all other areas of the organization.”

How to Determine if a Food Dining Provider Is the Right Partner for Your Community

Ask questions of other communities who are using the provider. How did the transition go? Do residents enjoy going to the dining room, or café, or bistro for meals? Is the dining staff part of the community? Will the community renew with the provider when the time comes? Glendale Dining Services has customized food service programs for each community; and they have 100% retention of clients to date.

Todd said, “The fact that we’re retaining our business means that the clients and moreover, the residents, are happy with the program. We’re meeting and exceeding the expectations of the residents and the clients on a daily basis. We love providing top-notch hospitality and food service programs to enable communities to focus on other important tasks, such as high occupancy rates.”

Joe, of Scandinavian Living Center, said, “I don’t have to worry about food service at all. I trust Glendale with the food, with the budget, with all food service responsibilities.”

The 2017 LeadingAge survey had 76% of respondents say they had upgraded their dining program to make it more attractive for the lifestyle. The common denominator for anyone seeking to become a resident in a senior living community is food. Having the right food service provider managing your dining needs can enhance your community’s attractiveness to prospects.

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Glendale Senior Dining Answers Your Senior Dining Questions

Can Glendale Senior Dining absorb my existing employees and possibly our culinary management team? Yes. Glendale Senior Dining typically takes on all staff members that are willing to make the transition. We work with each employee to ensure their success in food service dining. We provide great wages and great benefits and a career path they might not have otherwise had.

Our location has a desire to utilize as much locally sourced food products as possible. Does Glendale Senior Dining utilize resources of this nature? Absolutely. Glendale Senior Dining works very hard to identify local vendors of distinction to enhance our programs. That could be a bakery, a farm, a dairy, a local coffee vendor, or any other type of local vendor offering something freshly made from local ingredients.

Please describe the types of special events and monotony breakers that you incorporate into your dining program for the residents. We do a lot of exhibition cooking in the dining room. It’s an activity that residents love since it gives them a chance to see what we can do. In many instances, we’ve been asked to do personal catering for residents as a result of something they’ve had in the dining room or something they’ve seen us do. Special events are monotony breakers for people who dine with us up to three times a day; events are highly important to residents’ morale and their satisfaction with our hospitality program. In addition to the exhibition cooking, we do waffle bars, omelet bars, pizza stations, dessert bars, and more. We do special menus for the obvious big holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, and so on. Also the holidays on the calendar that aren’t as big, such as Groundhog Day. We also do the not-so-obvious holidays, such as National Meatball Day, National Cupcake Day, National Hot Dog Day, National Baked Potato Day, National Pretzel Day, and more; we’re never at a shortage as there’s a national something every week. Residents really appreciate the effort for something fun and new and we do a lot of that stuff. It’s fun for us to offer seasonal menu items, such as apple cobbler, peach cobbler, pumpkin pie, or things of that nature. We weave a lot of variety it into our programs.

Does Glendale Senior Dining provide specialized training for dining services employees? Yes. We set up an annual training calendar for each client. Training is based on our observations and regulatory compliance needs. We certify all hourly employees, which is a rare activity in this industry. Also, our management and culinary staff are ServSafe certified by an in-house ServSafe trainer. (ServSafe is a food and beverage safety training and certificate program administered by the National Restaurant Association.)

How would Glendale Senior Dining define its culture to a prospective organization? We are a hospitality-driven company. We focus on providing programs that are specific to each client’s needs and therefore no two food service dining programs are the same. We are a very hands-on organization with involvement from employees at all levels. We offer transparency and easy access to our company’s resources as well as to our company’s senior management and leadership.