Harris Ader had a hunger for information and collaboration related to senior living dining.
With more than 20 years of experience in the industry — including work as a corporate executive chef over a Florida company’s three communities, senior director of dining services at Morrison Community Living and most recently vice president of dining services for Senior Living Communities — he was used to a focus on food.
“I’ve been very fortunate in my career,” he dished to McKnight’s Senior Living. “I’ve worked at for-profits not-for-profits, high-end, middle-of-the-road, low income, kosher. I’ve seen it all.”
His almost 10 years at Morrison especially spoiled him, Ader said.
“As a leader in dining, you want to come up with new innovations, new industry trends,” he said. “When I was in contract management, it was all about food. Everyone you got together with was food, food, food and new innovations. It was all about dining. You had your whole sense of belonging there. When you’re outside of a contract company, it’s hard to find those sources.”
Senior living associations, by their nature, need to be palatable to a broad membership, Ader said, and dining-focused organizations didn’t seem to be adequately feeding his appetite for knowledge and networking, either.
“They lump senior living with healthcare or other non-commercial channels — business and industry, kindergarten through 12, college and universities,” he said. “We are a totally different beast. We’re very unique.”
So about a year ago, Ader started thinking about a new alliance, and after running the idea by some friends in the industry, he launched the Senior Dining Association earlier this year.
The association is serving up free webinars as well as single-day training sessions and other offerings for members, Ader said, and is planning its first Conference and Expo for March 17 to 20 in Charlotte, NC.
Others in the field must have had a similar thirst, because the professional / trade group already has attracted 335 members, he said, adding that membership is open to individuals — chefs, directors of dining services, dining services managers and people in additional positions — as well as communities and entire companies — ones that contract for food services and ones that handle things in-house — as well as the individuals and companies that facilitate the contracts. Ohio Living has signed up its entire portfolio, Ader said.
“We all have the same issues of recruiting people, retaining people and bringing people into the industry,” he said. “We want to help connect the hospitality industry to the senior housing industry and educate people about the senior housing industry.”
Careers in senior living dining, he said, “can be rewarding as long as you have the proper support in your locations. And we’re here to help support everyone.”