Do You Set Higher Standards for Your Dining Room?

If you’re not moving forward you’re moving backwards. Many changes are taking place in the community of today. Over thirty years ago when I began my career in healthcare food service, I entered the field at the lower end. I recall feeling the sting of being unappreciated for the work that I did. Was I wasting my time, just clocking in and clocking out? I felt as though I was not making a significant impact on anyone, even myself. It was a normal day for nursing homes to have a clinical and sterile dining room where therapeutic diets, calories, and efficiency were the main goals. I believed residents were negatively affected by this attitude. It really struck a chord with me. I wanted to do more even though it wasn’t my job.

I observed the residents and staff interaction. I paid particular attention to their behaviors. I listened. Servers would tell me of their struggles. Residents told me what they expected and did not get. I asked questions about how the system worked and why it worked that way.

Previously I owned restaurants in Alaska. I had the opportunity to cook and to serve my customers. My friendly interaction in a quality atmosphere created an enjoyable dining experience that my customers appreciated so much that they returned. Often. Having that experience in my pocket made me ask myself why we don’t treat and serve our seniors to the same dining standard?  How many people enjoy eating in a hospital?

Restaurant managers do a little bit of everything. (This also keeps them knowledgeable about everyone’s responsibilities.) I remember the day I cooked a meal shift and ran to the dining room to see how my customers liked it. This was not a common practice at the time. But I wanted to know their reaction to my efforts. When I did this for the residents in my community they responded to my interest in their opinions. I could see the change in them because, along with nutritional benefits, someone who cooked for them also truly cared! I knew at that moment that it was just a matter of time before the momentum in the dining room would swing a different way.

A light bulb went off in my brain (and my heart). I found my purpose in life! A seed within me. I made a promise to myself that when the time came I would create a hospitality training program that would focus on the dining environment in senior living communities. I aimed at improving staff relationships and residents’ lives. Kind Dining® was born in that moment! It continues to be my joy, helping others wherever they are in the structural hierarchy, to find joy in what they do, to know how much they are appreciated and how important they are to the entire community.

Our B♥ Kind® Tip: You are important to your community; How you serve meals MATTERS!

About Cindy Heilman

Cindy Heilman MS, DTR: Cindy Heilman has over 25 years of experience in enhancing hospitality, and food service standards. She is the CEO of her own company, Higher Standards LLC, and creator of Kind Dining® Training. Her unique background in restaurant ownership, in hospitality and healthcare food service, in working as a Dietetic Technician Registered and Healthcare Specialist at SYSCO Foodservices, led her to the development of her exclusive program that improves relationships and lives of aging residents through the dining experience.

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