4 Dining Trends You Need to Know Now

It’s an era of change and resident-centered care initiatives are on everyone’s mind. As AHCA/NCAL points out in The Quality Initiative, "Just like any other business, skilled nursing care centers and assisted living communities must ensure that the customer is king.” Studies show high resident satisfaction pays off organizationally and financially.

4 Dining Trends You Need to Know Now

Many companies are already embracing this new paradigm and learning to capitalize on the dining experience as a tool for improving the health and well-being of residents while building resident satisfaction, despite the economic challenges of the past few years.

Trending for 2013:

Choices, Choices

Recently, Kathy O’Hara, Registered Dietitian at Villa Crest Nursing Retirement Center in Manchester, NH shared a story about the importance of choice in the dining room:

“We had an admission last night. For the first hour she did not want to be here. Then, our chef shared the menu with her and showed her our dining room. The food choices really turned her around. Today, she has a whole different outlook on her stay with us.”

Choice—in menu items, schedules, portion size, and dining locations—is welcomed by every resident. Forward-thinking communities are offering an array of food and service options.

Rising Food Prices

The U.S.D.A. predicts food prices will rise by as much as 4% in 2013, due to last year’s drought. So, if you haven’t already implemented initiatives to stretch your budget and reduce waste, now is a good time to start.

The senior living communities I work with have been successfully cutting waste by honoring residents’ preferences about menu items and portion size. Residents tend to value these options because they don’t like to waste food nor do they want to overeat out of guilt. Be sure to communicate your willingness to serve seconds to anyone who is still hungry.

Community Building Matters More

Today’s retiree is looking for a relaxed, active lifestyle where they are as independent as possible and feel like a valued member of a community. Senior care providers can foster communal bonds by teaching the dining service staff how to introduce residents to each other and initiate conversations to encourage diners to visit with each other.

Bonds built around the table rarely remain in the dining room. They extend outward through the entire organization, positively affecting the collective psyche of residents and staff alike. Ultimately, these bonds extend beyond the walls of your senior care home into the surrounding community, encouraging new move-ins.

Nutrition Professionals Have a Large Role to Play

I’m often asked if the new person-centered care trend to liberalize diets means dietitians are no longer needed. This concern is very far from the truth. Registered Dietitians (RDs), Dietetic Technicians, Registered (DTRs) and Certified Dietary Managers (CDMs) should be serving as leaders in this dining culture change.

A lot of education needs to be done around the benefits of liberalized diets and how to implement them in the best way possible for the residents. When RDs, DTRs and CDMs teach best practices and model support for socialization during mealtimes, residents experience better health and restored dignity.

Now more than ever, it is time for the senior housing industry to recognize the importance of the dining experience. Choosing to make dining service a priority may feel uncomfortable at the start. Change can be difficult. But, as Quint Studer wrote in Hardwiring Excellence, “Leaders are comfortable with not being comfortable.”