Mar 28, 2017

The Art of a Great Dining Experience

Food is a big part of everyone’s lives. It’s especially important for people living in aged care, where a good meal can be the highlight of their day.

When you look at an aged care facility, many will boast an offering of a “dining experience”. This may include a linen tablecloth, a menu with a range of items, nice silverware next to white crockery and a chef in the kitchen preparing the delectable meals.

The reality of the situation can be very different. Behind the scenes of an aged care kitchen there may be a stressed chef, overworked staff and management, everyone trying to sort their way through high costs, high wastage and conflicting information over what is being served and how things are being run.

And when the resident gets their meal, it’s looks and tastes exactly like how things are going – a mess.

It’s important, and aged care providers are learning this now, to offer a positive dining experience. It can be the difference between happy and miserable residents.

Organisations can also see the difference in their reputation and branding, a good dining experience means a higher occupancy and happier families.

And the dining experience isn’t just about how and what is being served to the residents. It’s also about how things are run. Mealtimes can be stressful for all the staff, not just the ones working in the kitchen but also for the ones caring for the residents. If a more functional and efficient process is in place, then the staff are more at ease and likely to be more motivated.

Rejuvenating the dining experience can seem difficult, but it doesn’t have to be a huge overhaul done in one step – it can be lots of little steps that de-clutter the confusion over what it takes to offer a positive dining experience for the residents.

Remember it’s not just about the food that is served, but also how it is served and who is working and managing the process.

Making a Difference

Ryman Healthcare, a New Zealand-based aged care operator, conducted a survey to see what their residents were looking for when it came to meal time – and what for them was a priority.

The survey showed that the daily lunch and dinner served were very important to get right, with choice and presentation having precedence.

The facility manager Andrew Gibson explained that taste for food doesn’t simply diminish with age, “I think there’s a misconception about the sort of food you like as you get older – there is no way they just want to eat bland food. Food is really important”.

“They like the classics, they like fresh seasonal ingredients and they want food that is not bland in any way.”

This particular survey showed that residents wanted to see less casseroles, and surprisingly fish and chips were a polarising dish.

And to show they’ve listened, the New Zealand organisation have made changes to their menus, incorporating old favourites with new exotic dishes like osso bucco, a calzone and Thai beef salad.

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  1. The dining experience should be the full package. The choices, the flavours, a good chef,atmosphere, good company and all the accessories to make it special. For a lot of people in residential care the event of the day is the meal time.. its routine,. You all congregate in the same dining room and there is the opportunity of interaction and socialisation with others . It can be a long day sitting in your room alone if you don’t wish to partake in activities provided by a facility. They may be activities you don’t like.. Lighting,music and surrounding environment is of importance too. Music in the back ground. Do we look at individual diets with the detail we do in hospitals when someone enters a residential care facility ….do we know what the individual person likes to eat . Is this discussed as a topic when we enter care ?

  2. Residents spend a great deal of their day around the meal – thinking about it, preparing for it, getting to it, as well as eating it.

    When sharing meals with residents, I have found that they dont necesarrily want or expect a fancy dining experience on every occasion, just a consistently good meal that looks and tastes OK.

    Residents tell me they are disappoined when the meal is “murdered” and is not the meal they dream of, which may have been their favourite in days gone by.

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