Thad Parton

Evanston, IL-based Mather is taking a page out of the luxury hotel/hospitality book with the launch of a customized training program designed to support front-of-house culinary staff at three of its senior living communities.

“At Mather, we operate restaurants, not dining rooms,” said Thad Parton, Mather’s director of culinary operations. “Our residents are sophisticated and well-traveled; they expect the best service, and this training supports our team members in providing it.” 

Founded on a video-based program by Lobster Inc., used by large luxury hotel brands around the world, the training was customized by Mather to better suit its specific needs. The program offers four merit-attached tiers of training, including the fundamentals of service; banquet service and catering; bartending and beverage service; and leadership and fine dining service. It’s designed to support employees in food service operations throughout the organization, helping staff members provide the best possible experience for residents, Parton said.

“We’re aiming for our culinary program to be just like a luxurious restaurant experience by using our kitchens to enhance service style, standards, menu, variety, technology, [point of service] system flexibility, and training,” he said. The program also will provide a clear career path for success with monetary rewards, as well as a pool of candidates who then are in line for management or supervisory positions, Parton added. 

At the conclusion of each level of the program, participants must pass an online assessment as well as practical assessments, demonstrating culinary service skills and knowledge to the management team. Employees who successfully complete the program are rewarded with an hourly salary increase at each level, as well as a recognition pin indicating their current level of achievement. 

Parton estimates that almost 140 employees across the operator’s three communities successfully have completed more than 20,000 individual lessons to date, with everyone accomplishing the required first level. Engagement has been high, he noted, with approximately 40% of employees participating at higher levels.  

“The training helped me understand more about the position and get better at my job, because I now realize that every little detail counts in the bigger picture,” said Anais Chavez, culinary lead server at Mather. “It feels good to know that they are investing in me and my co-workers and that this isn’t just a job, but also a career.”