I've received a series of e-mails from the daughter of a couple who live in a beautifully decorated “upscale” community. She wrote asking for help to improve dining in the community her parents pay to live in:
"My mother and father are residents of a CCFT. Mother is in independent living and my father is in assisted living. They dine together in the community dining room. They are both private pay with the total out-of-pocket cost for both of them around $90,000+ per year.
The food service and food quality is poor and deteriorating despite promises from management. We need help in determining how to draft a strategy for making the dining experience pleasant, tasty and nutritional. My father has lost 10 pounds in the past year and my mother, who requires a more bland diet, often goes without eating. Meals should be the highlight of the day—something to look forward to rather than the source of extreme dissatisfaction."
Sadly, I hear stories like this frequently. All too often, senior care communities spend their resources on decor, but neglect the most pressing needs of residents:
- Food choices that meet residents’ needs and expectations
- Warm, friendly service that builds community and helps residents’ feel a sense of belonging
Between the two, good service is the most important. As veteran Chicago restaurateur Doug Roth says, “Good service can save a bad meal, but a good meal cannot save bad service.”
Instruction in service basics, geared toward strengthening staff knowledge, confidence, and communication skills, can impact the collective psyche of an entire community, quickly and fundamentally. It is time providers recognize nutritious food and customer service should be on the menu at every meal.
Hospitality can turn the dining experience at retirement communities into a major company asset.
About the Author
Cindy Heilman, MS, DTR has over 30 years of experience enhancing hospitality and food service quality. She is CEO of Higher Standards, LLC, author of Hospitality for Boomers: How to attract residents, retain staff, and maximize profitability, and creator of Kind Dining®