The smell of fresh baked bread summons more than happy memories…

By Laura Mitchell

A gaggle of senior women is making its way to the dining room. “It’s fresh bread night,” enthuses one.  The aroma of fresh-baked bread fills the air as the residents of this senior living community follow their noses to the table almost like floating cartoon characters.

Higher Expectations Equals Greater Satisfication

The institutional kitchens of senior living facilities aren’t usually places of inspiration and delight, but David Koelling, president of Strategic Dining Services a Senior Housing Forum Partner, thinks they should be.  “Expectations are higher now,” says Koelling.  “Today seniors expect more than institutional menus and we help organizations deliver on those expectations, while giving the chefs more opportunity to create and express their culinary skills.”

Strategic Dining Services isn’t an outsource group for senior dining.  Instead it works with, and re-engages, the existing culinary staff as a consulting team.  Together they transform what may have been a ho-hum dining experience into something more.  In other words, it isn’t just the residents who are fired up by the changes.  Executive Directors report a distinct ‘spring in the step’ of their kitchen staff.

“Now they are begging me to make Challah,” remarked one culinary team member with a grin. “Just making focaccia has inspired me to really think about food again and it has carried over to all of the meals I prepare.”

Better Quality Doesn’t Have to Mean Higher Costs

“It’s often very inexpensive to bring everything up a notch,” says Koelling.  “We focus on low-cost, high-impact ways to elevate the experience.”  

That, he explained, is where the fresh-baked bread comes in.  For the price of four simple ingredients—flour, water, salt and yeast—a flood of memories and good feelings result.  Kitchen staff take more pride in their work, diners are treated to the simple magic of baked goods hot out of the oven, and management is happy to get a big bang for a relatively small buck.

Speaking of bucks, what does all this cost?  I asked.  And it turns out to be surprisingly little.  According to Koelling, engaging Strategic Dining Services to work with your existing culinary team is 70% to 75% less than an outsourced dining service.  “Most people don’t realize how affordable we are,” he said.  

But what about organizations who already have an outsourced dining service?  “Actually,” said Koelling, “it’s very common for our customers to have existing contracts to outsourced services.  We help them transition out of those obligations.”