Like nearly every senior living community, as the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, Nebraska-based Legacy Retirement Communities quickly went from offering its 680 senior living residents a restaurant dining experience to becoming a full-on room service operation. 

In mid-July, however, under revised guidance from the state board of health, Legacy reopened its assisted living dining rooms, establishing two dining windows, which operate at less than 50% capacity, with a half hour for sanitizing in between. 

“We wanted to get them back in that dining room because a big part of a retirement community is the social aspect and being in your apartment for 180 days is not good,” Robert Darrah, director of dining services told food service professional publication Food Management.

Legacy’s independent living dining halls remain closed, but the team has transitioned from room service to food stations on each floor every night. Residents socially distance in line and choose from salads, entrees and desserts, all in recyclable to-go containers, Darrah said. 

“This style of service has gone over like gangbusters,” Darrah said. Legacy also is offering residents treats and beverages via morning and afternoon snack carts.

Another pandemic dining innovation has been Legacy’s live cooking demonstrations via the community’s Facebook page. The demonstrations are being held to replace Legacy’s annual catered event that they use to attract potential residents. 

“We demonstrated how to cook lobster bisque using live lobsters, for example,” Darrah told the media outlet. “The first 50 people to sign up actually received lobster bisque meals delivered to them by our marketing department. We’ve had upwards of 1,000 viewers for each of these livestreams so far.”