Some folks think improving food service in Senior Living Residential and Nursing Homes means making the food tastier or more varied. Training for better dining and food service is so much more. It includes learning and practicing a new brand of hospitality until it comes naturally and linking it to health care. Health care and hospitality go hand in hand with every meal brought to the table by caring for food servers. Kind Dining® teaches how they work together. The important word is teaching. Yes, hospitality and health care are part of every dining experience. These skills can be learned and are central to your Senior Living, Rehabilitation Centers, and Long Term Care community’s success. When your food serving staff grasps the training, they adopt a new sense of purpose resulting in receiving a personal benefit from the daily work they do. They will have focus, energy, and know what matters most when they are serving residents partially by being aware of the resident’s needs that are other than the meal served.
The food server sets the ambiance whether it is in a dining room or in individual rooms. Introducing small talk breaks down barriers that often hold fears a resident may be holding in. The food server can build trust and confidence by encouraging residents to talk freely and release those fears. We believe hospitality is a universal language and crosses all barriers. Remember that mealtimes are still the most important hours of the day for residents. It is the food server who comes in personal contact with each resident and is the company’s most valued employee.
Kind Dining® training guides your food serving staff by bringing out and honing their skills and talents. It is their responsibility to focus on positive events, truly listen, which is the greatest act of generosity they can give to a resident during the brief time they spend together. Inspire practicing random acts of kindness for coworkers and acknowledging those same deeds received. Suggest keeping gratitude journals and open discussions in meetings with coworkers. Discussions during meetings bring about new ideas, work-saving habits shared and ways to keep foodservice fresh and up-to-date.
Our B♥ Kind® Tip: Specifically trained food servers are the heart of your community.
Alice was one of those women who never lacked for something to say. She wasn’t trying to earn a degree or win an award. She just knew it relaxed the older people when she served their meals, especially newcomers to the community and especially in these days of quarantines. Alice wasn’t always so gifted with her tongue; it was something she learned while listening as she brought dinner when the dining rooms were still places for older people to gather. It caught her attention that many of them told family stories at the table. That sometimes led to family histories and genealogy tales. Others at the table were enrapt and became excited about following through and learning their family histories including writing them down for the younger generations who were too busy to research.
Evidence has shown that this interaction of family stories is beneficial to all people involved. It raises self-esteem, gives a sense of purpose and a new goal. It can also give value to the life an older person has reexamined. Writing down their stories increases their sense of self-worth.
Alice noticed the difference recently while serving a resident in her room. With the restrictions placed by the pandemic the woman who had previously been chatty, had now become too quiet, maybe showing some telltale signs of depression. Alice purposely asked questions about family history she had prepared ahead of time. She softened the query by offering a story of her own family. Then she introduced the idea of genealogy research, explaining ways the woman could begin. It worked! Excitement filled the room and continued day after day. The resident was eager to tell Alice the information she found and the history of the family she had no idea about.
Kind Dining® coaches food servers on the art of making, and the importance of conversation. It is much easier if you know how to open a conversation and are ready with questions to ask in a gentle manner. Making small talk is a talent learned by food servers to engage older people into opening up, encourage them to chat while you are serving their meals. In these days of the coronavirus, every bit a food server can do to help reduce the stress and lessen the anxiety of an older person adds more value to who they are and what they do.
Our B♥ Kind® Tip: Do you know how to relax a new resident while serving their meal today?
Some food servers don’t seem like they are trying to give genuine personal care and aid to the comfort of the older people they serve, yet that is what they are doing. If they love their job, love the work they do, and care for the older people they serve, it appears to be a natural part of the day for them. When food servers practice what they learn in structured training, it comes naturally. Food servers are the part of the employee team that instill the warmth of the table and sets the safe, comfortable ambiance older people need most. They use these professional skills three times a day during meals plus at snack times.
Trained food servers understand their role and the importance of the busyness of the community’s day as they hold the delicate position of creating contentment for a resident through their service at mealtimes. Kind Dining® training helps the unskilled worker learn a better way of completing their work while accepting the responsibilities of their job and building relationships of trust and safety with the residents and others on the food serving team. Kind Dining® guides the skilled food servers to seek opportunities to grow and expand their skills. They become proud of their professional appearance, language, and behavior in the service of hospitality given to all residents. Their value to the organization increases as they are the main key to the smooth running of a community by way of the hospitality of their mealtime service.
In these highly emotional and threatening times of coronavirus, it is imperative to have an ample number of trained food servers on your staff. They are the employees who stay through a crisis because they have been trained to handle unexpected situations. They know the precautions to take, yet continue to instill confidence, pleasantry, and comfort in the residents they serve. At Kind Dining®, we have a saying: Mealtime is the most important time to positively impact your residents’ nutritional health, wellbeing, and quality of life. That doesn’t change whether you are serving in the dining room or providing room service. It doesn’t change during the average everyday life in an LTC or retirement community or during the present pandemic times we are living through.
Our B♥ Kind® Tip: In present-days of coronavirus find ways to give well-deserved praise to your food servers at every opportunity.
Many stories of many kindnesses being extended to a customer come to me in many different ways. The stories aren’t always directly related to Long Term Care or Retirement Living, but the idea of kindness stretches from one station to another. For instance, a father checking into the Ritz Carlton for a conference brought his young son along. As they were checking in, the boy, knowing Spiderman was affiliated with the Ritz Carlton from the film, asked his father if there was a chance they may see Spiderman. A nearby janitor performing some light duties overheard the boy’s question that must have contained some high excitement in it. Because the employees of the Ritz Carlton are empowered, he contracted an agency to have Spiderman make a delivery to the hotel room where the boy was. He surely was overwhelmed by meeting his hero at the door! A lifetime memory and a lifetime customer were made!
By the way, each Ritz Carlton hotel has a full-time training director who stresses service value in his coaching. Sound familiar? Kind Dining® has been teaching trainees the same values, beginning equally with the intent of being proud of where you work. Although the venue may differ slightly, both are concerned with comfort and care and pledging personal service. Building strong lifetime relationships that are treasured and long-lasting is fundamental. Aren’t the goals for your LTC and retirement community similar?
The food servers have daily changes each day that they must learn and have ready answers when residents ask. It is vital that they know what foods, plus their descriptions, and drinks are on the menu for three meals a day plus snacks. It’s also important that they know what will not be on the menu or offered as a special on that particular day. Keep in mind always, that to the residents, mealtimes are the most important hours of the day. Even in these times of COVID 19 when meals are delivered to them, food servers need to bring the warmth of the table into the resident’s room.
Kind Dining® training reminds your food servers that knowing their job better makes their job easier and opens their mind to offering new ideas to improve food service. Their input is vital to the success of the organization.
Our B♥ Kind® Tip: Remember, everyone is unique, valuable, and worthy of respect
In these trying times of the COVID 19 crisis, studies reveal Long Term Care communities with ample staff who are well-trained have fewer cases of the Coronavirus. Training is a keyword here that works for your food servers who hold vital positions in the community. Kind Dining® training modules are so much more than bringing a meal to a resident. Having your food serving staff learn about the hospitality that goes hand-in-hand with health care is essential.
Food servers who bond with a resident through the skill of conversation assists in that resident’s healthier attitude toward their daily life. They erase the isolated mood and the common problem with older people, especially those living alone, of feeling forgotten. While being beneficial to the resident it also benefits the food server with the knowledge of being valued. These moments of building a friendship repeated three times a day every day, build the important trust factor notably in LTC residents. Each day the food serving team is in multiple, personal contact with the resident and therefore the company’s most highly-prized asset. It is imperative they receive the most competent training.
Kind Dining® training teaches your food servers how their service tends to a resident’s emotional need in this time of a crisis seemingly without extra effort by the server. Residents have a right to be and feel cared for and comforted. This skill comes from knowledge that is part of knowing what the service of hospitality encompasses. Listening while serving a meal often leads to knowing a resident’s unique story. Allowing them to talk is nurturing, healthy, and caring. Each person is significant and deserves individual attention.
The food serving teams are front line workers. When management invests in skilled training for their front line workers, they empower them. These are critical components of a supportive environment. It is in the organization’s best interest to hire an ample number of food servers so they are not overloaded with working hours. Wearing your staff out with schedules that weakens their ability to perform at their best, defeats the training skills they have learned. The wise administration will take notice and express their gratitude to food servers for coming in to work in these stressful times and for doing the great job they are doing in the face of the adversity we are all experiencing.
Our B♥ Kind® Tip: Remember, you are crucial to your team’s success and so are your co-workers.
Open and honest discussion is essential, and for me, an anticipated part of my training session of Kind Dining®. I don’t use a formatted script for this, and I am often pleasantly surprised by the responses that come. I recall a teenage dishwasher/busboy in one of the classes. He needed a job and happened to find one in the community where I was coaching. When he applied for the job, his focus was about just earning money. However, this changed after he noticed how the residents became personal to him. This began with a few comments exchanged with the residents as he cleared tables. The comments grew into conversations, questions, and answers. It didn’t take long for him to realize that showing up for work and just being there made a big difference to them and to him, too. He looked forward to his workday because of the bond that developed with the residents. Being friendly, he mentioned, enriched their life and his day. It impacted him to make a difference.
He continued to tell us that many of the residents no longer had a family. Since his grandparents passed away, his interaction with these older people was a way of returning what his grandparents had given to him. By being aware of life around him and responding to it, this young man developed a new sense of purpose. The new connection motivated him to want to improve his service. He intended to stay with the company regardless of a minimal wage because of his emotional responsibility and the commitment he made to himself. It wouldn’t surprise me if he eventually made a career in the hospitality and health care he displayed.
After the young man spoke in that Kind Dining® coaching session, other employees also expressed an emotional gift exchanged between residents and staff. Ideally, this concept needs to be nurtured. Companies that are committed to a healthy workplace culture improve their balance sheet by 20-30 %. It makes a huge difference in reaching a company’s goals when employees find their work meaningful. Research shows employees with a sense of identity, value, and purpose within the community are vital to an organization. Some senior living communities may not be able to offer employees the same perks of top-ranked companies such as health insurance, family leave, and childcare, etc. and cannot pay more than minimum wage at some levels.
However, workplace culture, which top companies rank as the most influential aspect is 80% of daily operations, which can be created and sustained for little money.
Our B♥ Kind® Tip: Do your food servers know their role in helping older people overcome loneliness and isolation?