By Leigh Ann Hubbard

Need some dining inspo? Ideas were flying at the Senior Dining Association’s Synergy conference this year. What do you think of these?


There was talk — and angst — about getting buy-in from staff and residents when introducing new ideas. We’ll cover tips for that in a future article. (Subscribe here.) But here are a few experiments that went over well:

  1. Tiptoe into international dishes. Two successes mentioned:
    • Buddha bowls, which allow people to try flavors separately or together.
    • “Anything from Europe.” One chef mentioned that in his community, European dishes brought up good memories for Vietnam vets who had been stationed in Europe. And if a lot of your residents happen to be of European descent, like German, “someone’s mom made that,” he pointed out.
  1. Try plant-based meals again. Another attendee said Meatless Monday crashed in his community before COVID but that the people moving in now are more open to it. His community now has three plant-based dishes always on the menu. Make sure these meals are full of flavor though. A chef said the industry struggles with a lack of skills to execute plant-based meals properly. Here’s one recipe he did a taste test with for some people, and they loved it: lentil shepherd’s pie. It was packed with flavor.
  2. Do a bubble tea if you want to see people freak out.”

Community Outreach

  1. Create a ghost kitchen. Check out Elvis Burrows’ initiative:

  1. Enter contests. Another initiative from Elvis: He submitted a cocktail to a local contest, and it won. Cocktail sales increase; revenue from them tripled.

For Farm-to-Table Dining

  1. Save money by asking farmers for their #2 products. This produce is not as pretty but is still tasty.
  2. Have a food show with the farmers. Offer taste tests. One community does this twice a year with Amish farmers it works with.
  3. Have a farm excursion, where residents can explore and buy produce. (Do recon first to make sure the area is walkable.)

More ideas to come in the buy-in article mentioned above. What other ideas do you have?

Senior Living Foresight is an industry partner to the Senior Dining Association’s Synergy 2023 conference.