My friend said that when she was growing up she was exposed to other ethnicities, especially at the dining room table and especially during the Christmas holiday season. I appreciate her sharing her experience and carry that image when I conduct my Kind Dining® training. It’s that hospitality I would love to see in every community and again, especially during the holiday season. I have mentioned that sharing stories of their youthful holidays is a good conversation opener between servers and elders and for making friends at the table. It is even more important for the staff to listen and carry those ideas to the kitchen and to the administration, allowing them to incorporate other traditions into the daily dining experience. Elders will be pleased when they recognize the influence of the stories they told.
Involving your staff in this way will allow your chef to utilize ideas and suggestions coming from within the community with new ideas to excite your residents. Your serving teams are in direct contact with elders who will love to be involved by sharing their memories and suggestions. It will convey to your residents that they are helping to create a family-comfortable ambiance, especially for those who have no family to come visit them. It will also convey that they are an important part of the community. The manager in charge of decorating the dining room, social, and common areas can include residents in the same fashion, extending the invitation to include them by asking for ideas. Who doesn’t have a story about decorating a Christmas tree, Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah table? Communication is the key factor in planning an exceptional holiday for your elders and their guests. To see and taste holiday customs that are familiar to them and some that are not, making them feel more at home than ever.
In helping her mother find the best retirement/assisted living community that would fit her personality, a friend of mine decided the best time to look was during the Christmas holidays. She paid special attention to the dining room. She learned a contest was held for the residents to make the decorations for the tables. The staff held a decorating social to include the residents while they strung popcorn and hung the holly in the dining room. Christmas music played in the background to get them all in the holiday mood. From December 1 until January 6, the chef selected particular days to feature various traditional foods for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year’s, asking the residents for recipes and suggestions. On those days, a holiday-related door prize was given to the lucky winner who found a randomly placed Star sticker under their placemat.
Framed photos of the servers were pleasingly hung on the wall of the dining room. During the holiday season the servers wore themed aprons, some outrageously funny! The residents applauded the best and the server got a star placed on her photo.
Family members were encouraged to join residents for lunch or dinner. She also noted how the servers were chatty, interacting with the residents, often calling them by name. My friend was an observant person, wanting a home where her mom could make new friends easily. She wanted assurance that she was leaving her in the hands of servers and general staff who cared enough to use kindness and thoughtfulness in her mom’s daily life. This is what Kind Dining® teaches.
She noted that the entire community glowed with camaraderie, activities, music, and contests, such as door decorations. Knowing her mom would soon need the assisted living section of the community, it was important that when she needed to stay in the community during the holiday season, it would be an enjoyable time.
Our B♥ Kind® Tip: Remember, the service you give has the power to build community.
A friend of mine told me of a conversation she had recently. She asked her friend what it is about her job that makes her love going to work. The friend replied, “My coworkers are happy to see me and greet me with a hearty Good Morning! What a great way to begin my work day! I know who I am, that I’m important to my company and help to make it successful. I handle my responsibilities with ease and have the confidence that I handle them well. My boss praises me sincerely and I’ve formed friendships. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have off-days. It does mean that when I need help it is offered with a smile and a thought that we all have days that go off.”
She continued, “It’s exciting when a new challenge comes up because the company gives us the training we need to learn what to do and how to do it best. I interact with the public and have met delightful people and learned how to enlighten someone who walks under a dark cloud. It’s an effort sometimes, but I always benefit from helping someone else. It’s amazing how that works.”
My friend thought for certain she had attended one of my training sessions because these are the goals of Kind Dining®. The value of training your food servers, encouraging them in teamwork, and learning to love the job they do is vital to their living a happy life and creating happiness everywhere they go. It is most important for food servers because the dining room is the heart of day for residents. It is more than just eating a meal. They look forward to socializing with other residents and when you have cheerful, caring servers, they look forward to seeing them, too. So it is also vital for your residents who will bask in the same glow as your servers. Ask your residents what makes their mealtimes so pleasant and ask your servers if they are happy to come to work in your community.
Our B♥ Kind® Tip: Remember, you are unique, valuable and worthy of respect, but proceed humbly