Know when to hold them. Know when to fold them.

By Pam McDonald

In 1975, Paul Simon lamented the difficulties of ending a relationship in his song, “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” Now the folks at Strategic Dining Services don’t actually advocate slipping “out the back, Jack.” But they do have recommendations for senior living providers when it’s time to consider switching dining services vendors.

Strategic Dining Services, a Senior Housing Forum partner, is an integrated, hospitality-based meals/dining program that provides mealtime experiences that work for the entire community – culinary and dining staff, marketing and sales, community management, and residents.

With their completely customized, community-specific menu programs; insistence on healthful, seasonal, made-from-scratch food choices; purchasing support; affordability; training; innovation and creativity; and commitment to their clients’ teams, Strategic Dining Services can help elevate resident satisfaction and grow census.

But they know – even when a relationship is not quite working for both parties – that challenges can make changing dining management companies difficult. David Koelling, Strategic Dining Services President, discusses three potential obstacles:

  1. Don’t be held hostage by the thought of losing key people . . .

    Early, honest communication is vital to reducing staff turnover during a change. Giving your team clear direction and accurate information about their options can alleviate anxiety. As can early planning, recruitment, and having a support system like Strategic Dining Services. We can guide clients through the process, help with recruitment, evaluate staff, organize purchasing, and layout operational plans for the transition.

    Many people may not be able to leave your community to continue to work for your contracted company because of its location, job qualifications and the positions that may be available. Besides, if they are really top performers . . . why are you looking to switch or eliminate them as dining management?

    Be cautious when asked to “buy” out current staff or managers. We can work with you to guide you through this process.

  1. I’m still under contract . . .

    While this may be true, most vendors don’t want angry or unhappy customers. You’ve probably given them signs or hints of your growing dissatisfaction, but now it’s time for you to tell them you will be to leaving, and then start working your plan. Again, Strategic Dining Services can help make transition as smooth as possible.

  1. I don’t want to have to go through this again . . .

    You may be settling for less than you want, but figure all food services are the same. Maybe traditional dining management companies aren’t a fit for your operation. If you’ve tried something and it’s not working, you don’t have to try the same thing again! Investigate your options; consider a model that actually works for senior living. Strategic Dining Services is refreshingly different. It works with each community to create a WOW factor in your kitchens and dining rooms.

Communication is the key to good vendor relationships. Start with that to create and continue successful partnerships. With that said, if you are not getting value, don’t feel like you are stuck in a relationship you can’t get out of — you always have options. A solid partnership works toward mutually beneficial results and has the ability to change as the partnership evolves.

Discover how Strategic Dining Services can help you grow census. Visit their website at: