Mealtimes are still your best marketing. Resident-centered food service is where your community quality shows through the strongest. The focus is still on the residents’ preferences and necessities whether making their meal choices from a menu or special food stations in each corridor that are being utilized now within pandemic guidelines of social distancing. The presentation may be different since dining rooms are closed but presentation matters and can be adapted to the individual. A variety of appetizing foods offered needs to be attractive to the eye and taste as fresh as possible. Person–centered care includes varied mealtimes, snacks offered by cart deliveries in off-hours, and availability to food at any time. The approach and sensitivity of the food serving team are still vitally important as many residents are highly unsettled during the restrictions of the day.
Kind Dining ♥ training teaches how to develop and improve communication between food server and resident that creates an open line in a relaxed atmosphere for the resident to ask any questions that concern them. Communication skills are not inborn but can be awakened and developed with training and practice. These skills improve relationships between staff as well as improving communication with residents. Good communication skills also provide the food server the opportunity for empathy with each resident, creating a bonding that was not encouraged previously. In these days of lockdowns and quarantines, food servers are a lifeline to the general news of the community. This bonding also allows servers to make decisions needed that arise at the moment with the endorsement of the administration. Trust in the food serving team is vital.
After years of finding ways to bring people together to the warmth of sharing a table, communities have mastered the challenge this past year of serving meals while keeping residents separate and safe, keeping their well-being in mind while still serving high-quality prepared meals. Some kitchens have arranged reheat meals the residents can pick up by walking a pathway created for them to avoid coming in contact with any other resident. The food serving teams have quickly adapted to serve residents in the best way possible with the new guidelines and restrictions while attempting to stay safe themselves. Combining healthcare and hospitality is still a priority.
B♥ Kind Tip: A positive attitude makes a big difference at mealtime.
Aiden met Robert during a break after a staff meeting at his new position in a senior living community. He was rather new in the field and repeated what he learned in his earlier classes while still in school, that there was always something new to learn in keeping up with the latest in retirement living. “Yes,” said Robert, “but I’ll let you in on a secret that you can rely on. There are some absolute truths that are standard. If you recognize them and live by them, you will be successful in your field and your company will be delighted to call you their employee.”
That statement piqued Aiden’s curiosity so he asked for more information about this secret. Robert went on to tell him.
“I’ve had Kind Dining♥ training where I learned to close the gap between the residents’ high expectation in service and the food serving staff just doing their job. We’ve learned to work as a team, helping each other when needed. We also make the effort to know each person we serve; call them by name and make sure they know our names. It’s important to all of us to do more than just serve a meal especially now when times are so unpredictable during this pandemic. Many of our older adults are separated from family or have none. Our residents appreciate our being personal while we are serving their meals. We’ve learned that many things that seem trivial to us are hugely important to people in this older generation. It is important to their dignity for us to honor their expectations. Don’t you agree that extending hospitality and a friendly presence aids in their healthcare?”
Aiden thought about that for a few minutes. It certainly made sense to him.
“We share our work experiences and discuss solutions and ideas at our meetings. This bonds us as a food serving team and our residents benefit from that. The previous generations that came to retirement or assisted living communities were of a simpler nature, meaning without the sophistication of the Boomers that come to us now. It is necessary to offer quality service, fulfilling the expectations of a healthier, wealthier, higher educated generation. I keep in mind what someone once told me in reference to a poorly trained food serving staff. It’s like building a Formula One race car and putting a Little Old Lady from Pasadena behind the wheel. I carry that thought with me.”
B♥ Kind ®Tip: Setting higher standards in foodservice is a positive change; embrace it!
Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. That is what many senior living communities learned in 2020. It was a year when hard decisions had to be made in quick time that would certainly benefit residents as they were the main object of consideration. We are living and working through historical, hard, and divisive times. People tend to bring out the best in themselves during hard times as we’ve seen in this past year. Kindness has spread to such a degree that people are even making a campaign for kindness. It’s as contagious as a yawn but much more lively. Every encounter in the community is to be met with kindness for it is the kindness that will be remembered long after the pandemic has been restrained.
Present discussions reveal that you are not to expect the new normal to be the same as the old normal in senior living. Another major lesson learned from the pandemic is that hospitality and healthcare go together, hand-in-hand for older adults. The pandemic has taught leaders in the aging industry that vulnerability held in senior housing will call for changes in the delivery of healthcare to hospitality. Kindness will be paired with care services as senior communities expand their on-site capabilities in tending to resident wellness.
Kind Dining♥ continues to train food servers in the social skills in hospitality that bring trust and comfort to residents’ care and excellence to the foodservice team. With practice, they will perform their duties naturally without thought and always with kindness in mind and at hand. Changes have brought creative ways of serving meals to residents that have been happily receptive to meals delivered in to-go containers that are recyclable and microwavable. In some senior living communities, food servers have set up mini-serving stations on each floor level where residents can attend at social distances. Chefs have limited the number of entrees to avoid menu burnout. Drink and snack carts visit at particular times during the day to keep residents from being too isolated. These options are all part of the planning in moving forward and working within guidelines to keep residents and staff healthy and happy.
B♥ Kind ®Tip: Kindness remains to a be a focus in these extraordinary times.
Leadership is no more about telling people what to do than good training is about being told what to do. Leaders of quality prefer a do–as-i-do rather than a do-as-i-say belief. They attend all meetings that are designed for food server participation so they can hear exactly what the food serving team has to contribute; their ideas, thoughts, and what interaction they can add to the workday process. Discussion is the keyword here rather than just listening to complaints being spoken from employees who don’t believe the company leaders truly want their help in improvement ideas. Top leadership recognizes the sincere attempt at improving the habits and routines of food serving to a senior or long-term care community.
Break down communication barriers by attending meetings with an open mind to share ideas and a willingness to practice any new process offered. Leaders must be visible to grow team culture around meal service. If leaders understand their power comes not from control but by empowering their staff, they will encounter employees assuming ownership of their responsibilities. Placing trust in them to make on-the-spot decisions when necessary to arrive at a successful satisfaction.
Good training includes hands-on, acting out practice, and true discussion on how to apply new ideas and suggestions from those who do the work every day. Kind Dining♥ does not train by simply talking. Your training session will probably reveal that some changes can be adapted immediately while others may take time and practice to instill. It takes education, training, and practice, practice, practice, to attain success with culture change. Food servers who continue to excel in personal resident care with kindness, consideration, and empathy added to their physical serving skills will become your company’s treasured assets. Your food serving team that develops conversational camaraderie displays their high standards of performance. The success of accomplishing these skills is well rewarded with acknowledgment such as notices on a public bulletin board.
Stir up passion and excitement in your meetings and training sessions. Leaders will be born while acting out a role. Inspire your food serving team by interacting and sharing company visions and goals that include them. Be generous with sincere compliments on performance. If you want your community to move forward, you must leave old habits behind and build new systems. Respect your food-serving staff from all departments to lead your community to success as they overcome the coronavirus that turned their workplace upside down.
Be Kind Dining♥Tip: Stir up passion and excitement in your meetings and training sessions.
“The late James Beard said, ‘Food is our common ground, our universal experience.’ He was not only a great chef but also an instructor, TV personality, and you’ll find at least 4 of his cookbooks on my kitchen bookshelf,” said a woman socially distanced by eating her salad at the far end of a picnic table during their lunch break from a culinary cooking class. “He would never know that the other universal experience the world shares is the coronavirus pandemic.” She mentioned the James Beard Foundation that continues to support the industry of food service, including the Foundation directing financial assistance with a Food and Beverage Relief Fund. “He also advocated mentorship and training. We must help each other in the food industry,” she continued.
If James Beard were alive today, he would probably be proud of how the foodservice teams and staff have pulled together in their work in senior living communities maintaining top-quality meals, considering individual dietary guidelines, and still offer selections for the general community. Foodservice teams and leaders had to create ways of serving meals to all their residents, and they had to do it quickly. Food servers were called on to work longer, intense hours to provide seniors with good food while also building relationships using conversation as bridges.
Kind Dining♥ developed virtual training instruction on-line workshops to help food servers work better by working wisely while still learning how to expand their own knowledge of their work field. In times of stress, an educated food serving team can save the day from what could be a disaster. Training sessions encourage and teach you how to create teamwork that motivates and uplifts. Food servers are employees skilled in many ways that are not often noticed. The part-time servers need to learn those skills that aren’t used in other parts of their daily routine. Good leaders realize their power comes from empowering others to make necessary decisions and trusting them to act on those decisions. Inspiring a shared vision of what can be, is valuable as is showing respect and giving credit to others in their success. Let your food serving team know that they are an asset to the company. Even in these most difficult times, your food serving team can obtain a competitive advantage. The training attracts and creates committed food-serving employees, which attracts new residents and reduces the expense of replacing unsatisfied employees.
B♥ Kind ®Tip: Food servers work better when they work wisely.