Here is why real restaurant style dining is good for everyone.

Last month I published an article titled “Fake Restaurant Style Dining” based on an interview with David Koelling, the founder and president of Strategic Dining Services, a Senior Housing Forum partner. I was surprised by the large number of people who read the article and downloaded the sample menus that Strategic Dining made available to readers.

Behind The Swinging Doors

We all make assumptions and usually they are true or at least largely true. Other times, though, assumptions are just flat wrong. When it comes to true restaurant style dining there are two wrong assumptions.

It Increases Food Costs- NOT #1

It turns out that, while in most cases food costs stay neutral, in a surprisingly high number of cases food costs actually go down. In a traditional institutional food service setting (fake restaurant style dining) the chef makes a best guess estimate as to how much of each type of food being served will actually be ordered and consumed and it gets prepared well in advance of mealtime. If the Chef guesses correctly, all is good (sort of), if the guess is too low then residents are unhappy when they don’t get what was promised and if the guess is too high there are leftovers. Because there are so many negative consequences to not having food that is promised, chefs generally prefer to overestimate. When this happens, even if the pre-cooked food is still usable, it will have significantly degraded quality and use becomes more limited. More often than not those extra portions end up in the trash, which is the same as dollars in the trash. The other big reason food costs go down is that the food is better and more appealing to residents. This means the first choice gets consumed and they get the calories they require, rather than leaving food on the table and making up with it at the desert table or with a second portion of something else. In addition, high quality operations with reliable great food can more easily direct their residents to certain menu selections. For example if the salmon is quite expensive or has been ordered in higher than expected numbers in the first half of the night, servers can highly recommend tonight’s chicken pot pie. “Hand made with garden fresh vegetables, fresh herbs and house made chicken stock……I just tasted it and it was delicious!”. The ability to control or drive menu choices is worth its weight in gold.

It Requires More Staff – NOT #2

There is no doubt that providing a true restaurant style dining experience requires a significant shift in the work flow. It shifts from slow and steady with some shallow increases at peak times to a steady prep time with a mad dash to keep up. At first glance the old way seems better, but in truth anyone who has worked in a restaurant knows that the best times; the most fun times, are when you have a full house and everyone is working as hard and fast as they can to get a bunch of perfect meals out to the customers. It feels like being a musician in a top tier orchestra, creating amazing, out of this world music. Then, as the peak dies away, there is a sense of triumph as the team celebrates that they “Got it done.” We are all programmed to thrive in these kinds of environments. It is way more fun than just doing the same old same old thing. This is the result:

  • Everyone feels better when the residents begin to rave about the new creations. This means staff feels better about their jobs and the residents and in turn they do a better job because they feel more valuable and accomplished.
  • Because the entire dining staff feels a higher sense of accomplishment and because they are having more fun you will attract and keep better staff.

Even if you are not looking for a new dining service, the Strategic Dining Services team would be glad to talk with you about how you can move your dining service in the direction of real restaurant style dining.  You can also chat with them at the ALFA trade show booth 421. What do you think real restaurant dining would do for your community? If you fill out this form someone will get back to you shortly.

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