Transforming Resident Dining Service Captures 2011 Optima Award

Photo Credit: Long-Term Living Magazine. From left to right: Villa Crest Administrator Sarah McEvoy, Long-Term Living Editor-in-Chief Patricia Sheehan, and Villa Crest Executive Chef Manny Perry.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Villa Crest Nursing and Retirement Center of Manchester, N.H. dramatically increased meal revenue while also improving both customer and staff satisfaction just over a one-year period. The efforts earned Villa Crest the national 2011 Optima award presented by Long-Term Living Magazine for innovative, outcome-oriented staff teamwork in long-term care communities. Key to the Center’s success is the innovative Kind Dining® training it implemented from the Portland, Oregon company, Higher Standards, LLC. The training transforms and elevates the dining experience in senior living communities.

Kind Dining®: Bringing Warmth to the Table is a 9-module training series developed and taught by service and nutrition expert Cindy Heilman, MS, DTR. The unique training is designed to incorporate hospitality and empathy with proper serving techniques. Research clearly indicates that residents who are highly satisfied with meals, food and the dining experience are more satisfied in their living environment and healthier overall. On a typical day, many residents spend as much as 60 percent of their time preparing for, engaging in, or returning from meals.

Villa Crest staff embraced Kind Dining® training as they embarked on a significant dining room overhaul, moving from a traditional approach with limited options and a rigid daily schedule to a new restaurant-style dining experience called CHOICES. Villa Crest improved the menu and service by offering freshly-made fare, adding flexibility to the dining room hours of operation, and implementing principles of hospitality through Kind Dining®. The dining experience was transformed to focus on resident-centered care and satisfaction. After the training, staff understood the importance of meal service from the residents’ perspective.

The CHOICES restaurant was implemented in April of 2010. In a little over a year, Villa Crest increased its guest meal revenue by an impressive 80%. The changes also resulted in increases in resident and staff satisfaction scores. Additional evidence gathered by Villa Crest indicates that social activity has increased and personal connections among residents have been enhanced by the culture change in the dining room.

“Kind Dining® training truly transformed our operation. Everything from small details like having servers understand how to respectfully address our residents to providing extended hours of meal service resulted in a significant improvement in our meal revenue and resident satisfaction. People aren’t born knowing how to provide good service—they need to be taught. I’m grateful to Cindy Heilman for her expertise,” said Sara McEvoy, Villa Crest administrator.

“I’m thrilled that Villa Crest won the Optima Award,” said Cindy Heilman, the creator of the Kind Dining® training and CEO of Higher Standards, LLC. “I applaud administrator Sarah McEvoy and her partners for taking the steps to make a positive impact on the lives of their residents. The results they achieved from transforming meal service shows how vital the dining experience is in the success of senior care communities.”

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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