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Dining should be an experience

Mealtimes should be your residents’ favorite times of day. Throughout history and across cultures, the gathering of family and friends—especially at dinner—has been an opportunity to relax, get reacquainted and share news and gossip over a delicious and lovingly prepared meal.


Too often, though, senior housing residents have to endure rushed meal schedules, uninviting dining environments and food that is ho hum at best. In short, their meal service feels institutional.


Why is this? Given that your dining experience allows you to distinguish yourself from your competitors, why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of the opportunity by offering superior service?


The situation isn’t as bad as it once was. There was a time not so long ago when meals were served to residents primarily on trays in their own rooms. Even when communities moved meals to communal dining rooms, they were often still served on trays, and residents were not necessarily encouraged to leave their rooms and join their neighbors for meals.


Things have changed for the better, but we often have far to go. If your dining room offers rigid hours, painfully limited menu choices and food that is prepared hours ahead of time, you may need to examine the reasons.


Sometimes the explanation goes back to your budget; for example, you may be short-staffed and don’t have the people on hand to maintain longer dining room hours. At other times, however, the cause can be found in such things as old habits, under-trained staff and a lack of corporate guidance.


Dining should be an experience—always—and dining at a senior housing community should combine the best elements of restaurant dining and home cooking.


Yes, excellence in your dining operation will require a serious investment of both budget and effort. But if you don’t do what it takes, your competitor down the road certainly will.


The Senior Dining Association exists to help you turn mealtimes into a joyful experience for your residents. We offer educational opportunities for senior dining professionals, a central hub of information for newcomers and seasoned veterans alike, and a community that allows you to share your experience and benefit from the experience of other. 


By: Harris Ader, Founder & CEO, Senior Dining Association 4/5/2018