Does the success of your Community come from the kitchen?

Does the success of your Community come from the kitchen?John and Paul have been challenging each other to a game of chess since they both had a full head of hair, a wife, and young children. When John was widowed after nearly 50 years of marriage he moved into a Retirement Living Community. A few years later Paul followed his lead. They are still trying to outsmart each other at chess.


“What did you think of the dinner last night?” John asked while waiting for Paul to make a move. “It’s a new idea the chef has been trying this past year.”


“I liked it,” Paul replied. “The meal reminded me of Martha. You know I still miss her and her home cooking. She also used to cook other than what we ate normally to get me to try some new recipes and expose me to new foods. She did her best to keep me from becoming an old stick in the mud when it came to dinnertime.”

“I liked it, too. It’s the chef’s way of respecting the foods we were familiar with at home. I think he makes mealtime taste like home. These Special Meals, as he calls them, reflect favorites of our age group and the spreads we enjoyed on holidays. The younger set eats differently than we always did.” John continued.  “You can request a favorite menu and even send family recipes into the kitchen. It tells me that the kitchen cares about what makes me happy. I rather like having choices, too, and I know they are healthy foods.”  


As the conversation over a chess game reveals, Retirement and Long Term Care Communities that value the dining experience, continue to advance their focus from the residents’ perspective and educate their food and dining service teams. It helps that they continue their Kind Dining♥ eLearning courses and have regular meetings that result in exchanging new ideas. Chefs and kitchen workers explore ways to add new dishes to keep their menu varied. Some even present opportunities for residents to taste-test recipes prepared from the residents’ favorite recipes brought from home. The dishes are voted on by secret ballots of the residents. The meals that get the most votes go onto the regular menu for a period of time. The goal is to create the feeling, through fellowship, of truly belonging to the community. 


Breaking bread together has been a way of bonding and creating those relationships for centuries. Food feeds more than just the body. It feeds emotional nutrition. Mealtimes, brunches, and Happy Hours are the basis for social gatherings that begin with food. Families identify with their culture through the food they ate since birth. For residents, the focus is still on food and all the socialization that surrounds each mealtime throughout the day.


B♥ Kind ®Tip: Your residents’ feeling of a home may come from your kitchen.

About Cindy Heilman

Cindy is the founder and owner of Kind Dining®, which she began in 2006. She’s traveled across the country and Canada working with and training senior living communities that want to create an exceptional dining experience for their residents and staff. In addition, she certifies select professionals in her Kind Dining® philosophy and provides tools, now in an eLearning format, that make learning stick and help people put insights into action. As a result of her work, clients often share their staff has a new sense of purpose, get along better and keep their focus and energy on what matters most. In fact, she wrote a book, Hospitality for Boomers on how to attract residents and keep good team members. In her free time, she enjoys walking Oregon trails and cheering on her favorite soccer teams, the Portland Thorns and Timbers.

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