If you are employed in a senior or assisted living community and serve a beverage to a resident, you are a food server. If you only fill in on a day when your dining rooms are short-handed, you are a food server. If you only serve food on an occasional basis, you are a food server and all food servers need to be properly trained.
Every food server needs guidelines and you need to know how to serve as good as your community’s best food server. This includes knowing hospitality, polite manners, how to connect with the resident you are waiting on, and how to make the residents happy to see you, not just for the food you bring but for everything else you bring into the room. This includes those in the administration who may only fill in when food serving staff is short-handed.
Kind Dining® training coaches everyone whoever picks up a plate or a glass and places it on the table whether in the dining room or in the resident’s personal quarters. It is all about meeting the expectations of the diner. Kind Dining® training teaches the science behind serving food in a hospitable manner that enhances the diner’s mealtime experience. When residents are happy with their food server, you are promoting nutrition, better digestion, reducing unintentional weight loss, and curbing dehydration. Food servers extend person-centered hospitality and hospitality is healthcare.
Healthcare is fundamental in senior living communities whether it is assisted living or not. The two go hand in hand together to better the daily life of each resident in your community. Learning about the seniors you serve by socially connecting to them encourages understanding, compassion, and caring. Caring is part of healthcare and hospitality is how you show it. Always keep in mind that when you serve food to a resident’s private rooms, you are entering their home. Your relationship with each resident affects their dining experience. Being happy to see you is the first step in being happy with the meal you bring to them.
Our B♥ Kind® Tip: Know the goal and know your role.
Personal stories about food service, whether they are restaurant-based, institutions, or more often today, come from residential communities. One story that came to me recently was from a gal who probably was a natural leader in the senior community she worked in because she had a restaurant background.
“My parents owned a small neighborhood restaurant,” she said. “None of us children followed in their footsteps in owning a restaurant but I learned about the psychology that surrounds food, food service, and how hospitality fits in. Customers came to see us as well as to eat. They came to know all about us, including celebrating a new baby in the family or any important life moment. In turn, we learned about them as I served their dinners or they lingered at the register to share their news. I treated them as if I was welcoming them into my personal home, with the same courtesies, the same consideration, and the same warm feelings. Mom and Dad taught us about hospitality and my siblings and I never forgot it. What I learned then guides me in my food serving position in today’s senior community.”
This is a story heard often because it carries so much wisdom about food service. Hospitality is key to good service which can save a disappointing meal yet the opposite is not true. A good meal can never save bad service. Bad service is remembered even longer than the memory of an excellent meal. In a senior community, good food service is even more vital as it aids in digestion, promotes nutrition through appetite, reduces unintentional weight loss for the same reason, and also reduces dehydration. The connection made between food server and resident creates a foundation of goodwill that aids both parties and travels both ways.
Kind Dining® believes another factor for good food servers to keep on their ‘keyring’ is that mealtimes are the time of day residents look forward to the most. Even with social distancing and quarantine, mealtimes are when they connect with a live person, even if the food server is wearing a mask. Residents who are happy at mealtimes are happy in their community and happy people don’t leave. They invite their friends and family to choose the same senior community that offers them hospitality and serves them contentment.
Our B♥ Kind® Tip: Reflect on what hospitality means to you and how you can serve it today?
It seems multicultural and multiracial items are in headline news every day. Retirement living and long term care residents are more multiracial and multicultural than in the recent past. Today’s retiring seniors are widely traveled and exposed to other cultures by the choices they made in how they lived their lives. Travel, communication, and TV have opened the doors for Americans to learn about people from faraway places and in return, many immigrants have become American citizens. In order to accommodate and welcome seniors with different traditions that retirement communities have seen in our parents’ generation, it is time to continue the education of your food serving teams in your community. They hold the keys to the hospitality your community provides. They are the key to the success of your community.
Each Kind Dining® class is unique depending on the mix of age, gender, culture, and work experience of the participants. The curriculum is consistent with expanded avenues but responds in strength where your group needs it most. With the new generation of residents, even previously trained food servers will benefit from retraining and coaching. Educated and trained individuals are about community and community means belonging to a group. It is vital that food servers are aware they are part of that group. Further, teamwork is a goal for food servers to achieve with their coworkers. The food serving team is important to your company’s reputation; how they serve meals matters!
Food servers can encourage residents to talk about their traditions and uniqueness in order to begin conversations and to gain knowledge. The friendlier food servers appear while performing their service, the more at home residents will feel. It’s significant for residents of cultures new to the community, to attain that homey feeling. Empathy from your food serving team tends to boost hospitality and kindness. It is easy to misunderstand culture staff are not familiar with but if they are alert and aware, potential misunderstandings can be avoided. Body language plays a major role in avoiding social disasters. A resident is less likely to react negatively when the food server is obviously appearing in a kind and considerate manner. Remember to smile, make eye contact with the resident you are serving, share a kind word, and call them by name.
Our B♥ Kind® Tip: Food servers help residents overcome feeling isolated, yet still have a sense of belonging.
Looking at it from a resident’s point of view, after their own grooming, followed by waiting for hours for their next meal, what do they see when you enter their room? Can they rely on an enthusiastic “Hello, Mr./Mrs. …, How are you doing today?” Can they see a smile behind the mask being worn? The smile that moves up to your eyes where everyone can see it while hearing it in your voice? Do you use a lively step into the room so they know you are truly as happy to see them as they are seeing you? It’s vital that you mean it when you say you are happy to be bringing their meal. Your voice reveals how you feel even more than the words you use. Guaranteed you will feel better using a chipper tone of voice while you are extending a happy word to the resident. It’s human nature.
Using an upbeat attitude is a choice, one that can be learned through practice even if you have heavy problems waiting for you elsewhere. It’s a way of tucking your own woes into a little pocket that you can bring out later when you need it. They don’t have to be foremost in your mind when you are serving meals. You will find facing your own problems easier by starting with the confidence you carried throughout your workday. Kind Dining® training teaches how to make choices, how practicing hospitality lightens your own load. You will be improving the quality of the meals you serve without changing a single thing on your resident’s tray.
Basic training of your food serving staff is an investment that remains with practice until it becomes part of your food server’s natural attitude. This improvement in your food serving staff will make a significant difference to your residents. Making and keeping residents happy in these trying times is a gift you can easily give them. Provide your residents with nutritional, tempting dishes, eye-appealing to whet the appetite, and top it off with pleasant, effervescent food servers whose presence will be remembered after they have moved on to serve the next resident. Your food server can make their day!
Our B♥ Kind® Tip: Non-verbal communication is indispensable to great service.