The recent pandemic has managed to cause challenges for many senior living providers. Yet, these issues are not a problem, and companies across the industry are designing innovative solutions.
Recently industry leaders were surveyed, and viable solutions have been highlighted. As the Covid-19 epidemic surged across the country and some state and local governments resumed lockdowns, Advanced Housing News issued an inquiry to providers, and they all asked the same questions.
Considering all the restrictions and pressures of Covid-19, how to make the residents’ dining experience satisfactory?
Francesco Tardio, Director of Food Services at CCRC The Clare:
Dining at The Clare is a social and culinary activity, an essential aspect of our residents’ lives. With Covid-19 restrictions, we always put the safety of residents first. Nevertheless, since March, our goal has remained to work within these limits and provide our residents with as much normalcy and stimulation as possible.
To this end, we maintain the quality of the high-quality menu at every step, delivering food such as filet mignon, King Ola salmon, duck breast, and more directly to the residents’ apartments. We have also implemented many programs to keep residents involved and connected. We conducted a virtual wine tasting with cheese and chocolate pairing. We conducted a virtual demonstration with our famous chef Hagop Hagopian, in which he cooked his favorite resident dishes or demonstrated his butchering skills.
Weekly happy hour is an integral part of Clare’s calendar, so we now offer a bar trolley every five days, offering specialty cocktails, beer, and wine. We take the bar cart a step further on holidays and special occasions, distributing pretzels and cheeses and German beer at the Oktoberfest or placing carts during Halloween.
Through all of this, we value feedback from residents to improve our menu products through healthier choices and plant-based choices and introduce new products in our market convenience stores. Looking ahead, we will continue to work hard to strive for the satisfaction of residents. Their gratitude, patience, and opinions give us the motivation to do more and do better.
Jonathan Pinsker, Regional Director of Culinary and Nutrition Services in the Southeast Region, represents the retirement community:
In this challenging era, people are looking for normalcy. When we started to reopen our dining venues, the residents were eager to taste what it was like before. We have developed some innovative solutions to meet residents’ needs while complying with the Covid-19 security protocol.
We prepared something special for them: everything from themed restaurants (such as pop-up restaurants with limited seating and six feet apart) to unique tables with take-out meals. Even simple napkins have made a worldwide difference to our residents.
At Edgewater in Boca Pointe, a community in Boca Raton, Florida, our executive chef created a lucky draw for residents who filled out take-out orders. The sweepstakes winners offered five-course delicacies to their apartment in stages to mimic the experience of dining in a high-end restaurant.
Now is the time to train our staff to cook and serve food more efficiently: provide more cooked-to-order services for independent residents and breakfast for our assisted and skilled residents. The key is to use the meal experience to be more than just a meal but to be as memorable as possible. The best way to attract residents to participate is to contact our service staff. Our residents, like young people, and our waiters like to talk to them and listen to their words of wisdom. Put: keep it fresh; keep it fun, and especially create memories.
Rina Younan, Vice President of Project Development, Oakmont Senior Living:
First of all, it is necessary to create a dining experience of all comforts. Just like the general public, the elderly should also enjoy multiple choices, access, and dignity rights when dining. At Oakmont, we have created dining options for residents. Our community provides high-quality room service at every meal, high-quality and convenient take-out, indoor dining for groups with small social distance, and outdoor terrace dining. In addition to ensuring that they have a variety of dining options, we have made changes and expanded the menu and product categories to make sure that residents do not get food boredom and provide plenty of variety. When others restrict the menu, we create more choices.
When residents were unable to come to the restaurant, we brought the restaurant to them. Doorway Dining is an interactive live mobile cooking experience. We created this experience to stimulate all senses and establish social interaction between chefs, waiters, and residents. That allows us to provide each resident with the highest quality food and personalized service in a fascinating way. Residents’ favorite foods include our sizzling steak and seafood sandwiches, homemade Italian handmade pasta stations, the chef’s Belgian waffle bar, and fresh ahi poke bowls. That brings fragrance, excitement, and life to the doorways of our residents.
Involving family members and participating in our residents’ lives is essential to maintaining happiness of our residents. Due to the inability to visit and interact with relatives, we hope to keep our residents in touch with them through food. By creating grab-and-go cooking events for our family, friends, and loved ones, we can keep the family present, participate, and stay connected with the community. We provide family-friendly lunches, light meals, hot drinks, and ready-made dinners. We will continue our annual tradition of famous holiday bake sales and fundraising activities to raise Alzheimer’s research funds.
The key to overcoming the pandemic’s constraints and pressures and keeping residents satisfied with the cooking experience is to create barrier-free environments, innovative and interactive experiences, and expand the integration of the community. When doing these things, even in these unfamiliar times, you will have a sense of normalcy.
Marjan Kodric, Vice President of Food and Beverage Services at Brookdale Lifestyle Hotel:
Brookdale solves this problem in three ways: nutrition, socialization, and experience.
Nutritional intake: Our primary task is to ensure that indoor dining provides residents with a balanced menu of nutrients. We quickly adjusted the menu after changing to the indoor dining. We found that the most challenging aspect of in-room dining is determining whether residents eat enough each day. That’s because we cannot observe them when we walk around the restaurant. We cannot provide other things to residents who have not eaten much.
After the meal is served or soon after the meal, the staff will work hard to follow up with the residents to observe the consumption situation. We make sure that other menu items or snacks can be delivered quickly and even kept on the floor to provide residents with more choices.
Social interaction: Everyone knows that dining is more than just consuming food; it is a social event that occurs three times a day. While indoor dining has changed dining services’ social meaning, we have worked closely with the resident planning team to find new and creative ways to socialize and add other elements, such as mobile happy hour services. Employees will knock on every residents door to say hello and ask them how they are, and then provide free drinks.
Dining experience: The menu is planned to be provided in the restaurant and does not always help plate beforehand and deliver to residents’ rooms. When the pandemic began, most residents had to order meals. They cannot change menu options while serving. Therefore, we are looking for other ways to bring a more typical dining experience into in-room dining. One way is to use snack carts and dessert carts. The dessert cart is full of various items, and residents can choose what they want after dining in the room. Residents can also use a variety of seasonings or customized seasoning options.
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