Quality, consistency of food and service are keys to senior living dining success: survey

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Quality, consistency of food and service are keys to senior living dining success: survey
Quality, consistency of food and service are keys to senior living dining success: survey

The quality and consistency of food and the quality and consistency of service are the biggest contributors to the success of senior living dining programs, according to the newly released results of a survey of C-level and senior executives of senior living communities.

Workforce stability is important, too, said respondents, who indicated that a community's dining program reflects on its overall brand.

The research was conducted in July by food and dining management services company Unidine in collaboration with LeadingAge. Responses were received from 178 people working in companies offering independent living, assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing, short-term rehabilitation, home- and community-based services and hospice. Sixty-eight percent of respondents said their communities do not outsource dining management.

 At LeadingAge

This research will be discussed from 8 to 9:30 a.m. Monday at the LeadingAge annual meeting. Session 74-B: Dining Management in Senior Living 2017 will take place in Room 343.

On a scale of 1 to 5, with with 1 signifying a factor “not important at all” and 5 indicating an “extremely important” issue, participants as a whole scored quality/consistency of food and quality/consistency of service at 4.85 and 4.78, respectively. Also scoring higher than 4.5 among the 14 variables, at 4.55, was that the dining program is a reflection of the brand, which was a new element to this year's survey.

“The clear message is that senior living executives are increasingly looking at the dining program as a reflection of their brand,” Steve Servant, a senior vice president at Unidine, told McKnight's Senior Living. “It's one of the keys to differentiating a community in a competitive marketplace.”

Workforce stability, which also was identified as an issue affecting the industry in last year's survey, scored a 4.53 this year. Almost two-thirds (65.2%) of respondents to last year's survey said they faced challenges with workforce stability.

“What is clear from 2016 to 2017 is that workforce stability remains a top concern,” Servant said. “It's a critical factor in the quality and consistency of food and service that were the top-rated dimensions in the survey.”

Participants from communities that outsource dining management rated eight of the 14 dimensions at 4.5 or higher. By comparison, those from communities where dining management is not outsourced rated three of dimensions at 4.5 or higher.

“It makes sense,” Servant said. “Dining management in senior living is complex, and when you have a partner with more resources, expectations will be higher.”

When all respondents were asked to rate their dining services' performance on the same variables on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is poor and 5 is excellent, none rated above 4.5. The three highest-scoring dimensions were access to diet and nutrition professionals (4.07), cost control (3.88) and menu variety (3.87).

Respondents at communities that outsource dining management said the highest-performing area at their communities was access to diet and nutrition professionals (4.09) followed by menu variety and access to experienced dining and foodservice management expertise (both 3.77).

Those whose communities do not outsource dining management said the highest-performing dimensions at their communities were access to diet and nutrition professionals (4.06), quality/consistency of food (3.97) and menu variety (3.92).

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