Every time I publish an article related to dining and food service, readership for that article jumps. It always kind of startles me, but shouldn’t.

Every time I publish an article related to dining and food service, readership for that article jumps. It always kind of startles me, but shouldn’t. 

  • It is the area of operations that touches essentially every resident at least three times a day.
  • This means hundreds of opportunities each day to get things not quite right, or perhaps more accurately, hundreds of opportunities a day for residents and families to complain about something tangible. 
  • Because tastes and preferences vary so much, the same meal served the same way can be exquisite, horrible or just ok. The same meal can be too hot, too cold or at the perfect temperature. 
  • Dining services is a significant cost center in terms of people and consumables. There are lots of opportunities for waste and theft. 
  • It’s not all bad stuff – Your dining program can also be the place you can really differentiate your community from those around you.

Reducing Costs

Recently I was talking with RonnDa Peters and David Koelling, the principles of Strategic Dining Services, a Senior Housing Forum partner, about how they help senior living communities reduce food costs. As we chatted, I asked them if they would be willing to share some suggestions that communities could implement immediately.  

Their preamble for these suggestions is that none of them are about reducing the quality of the food or service. They feel strongly that, in many respects, these suggestions will make you and your dining team more mindful of how they serve residents and, as a result, can both reduce costs and improve quality.

  1. Review the 20 items you purchase the most – Typically this will represent about ½ of your total food budget. Your broad line food vender should be able to provide you this list. You should look for ways to consolidate, for overcharges and possibly less expensive alternatives.
  2. Review your daily labor – What the Strategic Dining Service team often finds is that there is a great deal of variability in staffing and staffing costs from day to day. Sometimes this is done to accommodate a special event, but often it ends up having more to do with the convenience of the dining staff. The result is uneven staffing, uneven quality and unnecessary overtime.

    Using an online scheduling tool like the one OnShift, another Senior Housing Forum partner, offers can made monitoring and managing dining staff costs a lot easier.

  3. Ask the kitchen staff to keep all leftovers until the next day – Nothing should hit the garbage until the next day. There are two huge reasons for this. The first is that some of those leftovers can be repurposed or reused.

    The second is that often the dinner leftovers are prepared by food service workers who have gone home by the time dinner is over. They may have no idea how much extra food they are preparing.            

  4. Review your third party management company line item bill –  If you are using a third-party partner food service provider you need to carefully review each month’s bill to ensure you are receiving what you paid for. Too often unintentional creep occurs and you may find items that should not be there.

David and RonnDa, using just these four methods, find they can help communities cut their food costs by 5-7 percent. If you are looking for even more help, Strategic Dining put together a one page cost saving tip sheet that has some additional ideas.

 Download PDF

Do you have any other things you have done to cut food costs?

Steve Moran