2023 Senior Living Dining Trends
Shift from Comfort to Variety, Interrupted
As an unexpected side effect of COVID-19, senior living residents began requesting comfort foods more often. In the face of daily unknowns, they craved the familiarity offered by comfort food.
With a ‘new normal’ emerging, residents are settling in and requesting broader food options again. In response, operators are experimenting with more variety, such as Asian inspired cuisine. However, that is not quite going as planned, but not due to resident disinterest.
Thirty percent of operators say they are experiencing serious supply chain issues and fifty-four percent are experiencing moderate issues.1 This is making it difficult for operators to offer specialty items and plan menus accordingly.
The highlight of some residents days is dinner time and they often review the menu before hand, excitedly planning their selections. If they arrive to be told their selections are unavailable, this significantly impacts resident satisfaction. The best way to handle these issues is proactively. Keep residents aware of supply chain issues ahead of time.
Most residents can reasonably understand the challenges of operating a business in an uncertain economy, with disrupted supply chains. Open communication and offering as much advanced notice as possible can help mitigate resident disappointment.
In addition to communicating with residents, kitchen and dining room managers must be hyper vigilant with their planning. It has become critical to keep a a close eye on stock levels, as there are frequent and unexpected shortages of typically readily-available items.
Flexible Dining Options
In answer to social distancing protocols, in-unit dining became common and popular, with most communities seeing a sustained rise in demand. Senior Housing News asked operators what they expect future demand to be for in unit-dining; over half said they will likely see demand increase or remain at the current level.2
In-unit dining extends past ordering from the community’s dining rooms as well. Digitally enables seniors, what we call “Digital Seniors,” are ordering meals and groceries with services like Uber Eats and Instacart.
As the senior living demographic begins to become more tech-enabled, we expect this trend to continue. With the demand for online ordering firmly rooted in senior living, your community should take advantage of this additional revenue opportunity.
FullCount’s online ordering module can help you increase resident satisfaction, boost revenue, and offer flexibility options for residents to take full advantage of on-site services.
Creative Staffing Practices
As operators continue to face staffing challenges, they must develop creative strategies to maintain high resident satisfaction. As we know, recruitment and retention can be the biggest hurdles in staffing. Wise senior living operators have taken advantage of restaurants closing due to COVID and have begun recruiting these prospective employees.
To aid in retention, managers are developing strategies for employees to grow in their roles in-house. With visible opportunities to advance their careers from within their existing roles, employees can visualize a future in senior living dining while fostering an excitement for their current job function.
Another route operators take to retain employees is by offering free meals. Who doesn’t enjoy free food? And it’s expensive to keep hire and train new employees ($10K+). This especially costly if there is a high turnover rate. Instead of putting those limited funds into replacing employees, why not put it toward keeping them? Providing free meals, at a typical cost of $5 per day is a $1K average annual cost for a $10K annual benefit.3
Proper recruiting tactics along with exceptional retention efforts could mitigate staffing challenges and increase revenue.
What’s Next for Senior Living Dining?
Technology. It is inevitable. COVID introduced countless tech adoptions throughout the industry and with the ongoing labor shortage, this trend will not slow down.
Point of Sale systems and robotic solutions are two major technologies being adopted by dining managers.
A Point of Sale system can track all transactions throughout your community, reducing labor hours and costs and increasing revenue. And by choosing an integrated option built for senior living, residents can order online, make reservations, check account balances, and much more.
Robotic solutions are robust and expanding quickly. The solutions currently utilized within senior living dining are helping address labor intensive tasks such as cleaning tables, serving food, and cleaning. By reducing the amount spent on these tasks, servers are able to focus on engaging with residents to increase satisfaction.