Mar 16, 2018

Where is Aged Care Meal Service Failing?

When spending time eating with residents while onsite reviewing a meal service at a residential facility, I am often told the food is no good here.  My job is to find the Why?

Frequently the blame is pointed upstream to the Chef/Cook that they are hopeless in the kitchen, or even further back to supply – the quality is no good.

What I have found is there are a number of critical points where meal quality can be let down.

  1. Supply – do your suppliers respect your food quality benchmark, or deliver any old thing because they know you will accept it?
  2. Preparation – are the recipes ones your diners crave, love and have fond memories of?  Are you using ingredients familiar to them, their upbringing, their current taste buds? (Or what family, management, experts think you should be cooking)?
  3. Cooking – are you using methods to ensure flavour, taste, texture your residents in situ can manage?  Are you cooking to perfection when the food comes out of the oven, or considering the journey duration from oven to diner’s mouth?
  4. Hot holding – does the food maintain its integrity, nutritional value, look and taste from kitchen to diner?  Safety is important but not to the exclusion of quality.
  5. Serving – would your diners describe the meal before them as colourful and delicious looking?  Do staff value the food and the effort gone into producing the meal?
  6. Ambience – Are diners set up comfortably, able to manage the meal wherever they are, without feeling rushed or forgotten about? How often would they describe their meal as being a pleasant experience?
  7. To their schedule – is meal time fixed with fixed choice/s, allowing little leeway for grazing or eating at their optimal times?

Are you focussing on delivering a delicious, satisfying meal outcome with little tray and plate waste or ticking the compliance and safety boxes of a “nutritious, dietitian-approved menu” kept out of the temperature danger zone?

With a regular clientele with regular habits and consistent preferences, your menu offering does not have to be a “one size doesn’t really fit all but we will offer it anyway”.

What do you have to say? Comment, share and like below.

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  1. At my mother’s hostel, the meal was cooked hundreds of kilometers away, as far as I could ascertain, the carrots (main vegetable, served most meals) were always as hard as wood and inedible. Meat hard too, uncuttable. The white sauce, which came in a plastic bag from which it was squirted straight onto plates at the table, was put onto dessert instead of onto vegetables. Plates were cleared away with most of meals uneaten, but I never saw any sign of that miserable reality being noted. Also an air conditioner blasted onto the diners, and when my mother complained she was scolded severely and informed the air conditioner was for the sake of the staff, not the residents.

  2. It all comes down to money…… the cheaper the food the crapier the food…….all to do with the bottom line…..I have never seen my mum have caviar at her aged care place…

  3. My heart goes out to you S. May. It is a terrible thing to witness.
    Geoff, I have found that even with a higher budget, there can be a lot of food because the meal is “murdered”.

    I take the approach of working with the existing resources to improve the meal and get a decent consistent experience for residents. Management, Board and families are reluctant to spend more money when there is still a lot of waste.

  4. Jo, I’m retired now, only about 6 months ago. I still advocate. I’m worked at one facility that provided little savaloy sausages and chicken nuggets for dinner. Management didnt seem to care about nutrition. No matter how many complaints to the organisation, nothing changed. I believe the CEO has been let go after being outing by staff on TV.

  5. I volunteer at an Estia nursing home, I assist with meals and eat every lunch time 7 days a week. Over the past 3 years I have only been disappointed once and that was instantly rectified. We have a good team and I think that can usually override cheap food if prepared properly and served in a friendly atmosphere. There are many reasons for not being satisfied however I have noticed that it is mainly due to the customers attitude on the day. If they have decided not to eat it doesn’t matter how good the food is.

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