Menuing Meatless

Retirement community adds meat-free options in attempt to get residents to eat healthier.

Buffalo mozzarella in a grilled pita with tomato and basil,
served with roasted vegetable Israeli couscous.

BALTIMORE—This summer, the Windows Restaurant at Oak Crest retirement community began menuing meatless offerings in order to give residents healthier options. The trick, according to Paul O’Callaghan, Windows Restaurant manager, is getting residents to eat the healthier options.

“We didn’t want the focus to be on healthy foods,” O’Callaghan says. “There is a stigma behind healthy foods, and people veer away from them. We wanted to go after things that have complex layers of flavors. The items have to have a great visual appeal so that when you come into the restaurant you opt for it over whatever else. The back end of it is that it’s healthier and meatless.”

Dining at Windows is buffet style. The meatless options are offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and residents can select from a variety of soups, salads, sandwiches and hot meatless options. Non-vegetarian items are available on meatless days as well.

Two of the meatless offerings are a grilled gazpacho sandwich and an Italian vegetable wrap featuring sliced eggplant with a caper mayonnaise.

O’Callaghan says that while some of the community’s 2,100 residents were asking for healthier options, many are resistant to “health food.” “We certainly see a lot of interest in healthier cuisine,” he says. “We’ve had several residents move in who are either vegetarian or vegan. A lot of the residents are health conscious, especially toward fat and sodium intake. When you tell them that it is a meatless
option, however, they are very
resistant to it.”

To combat that resistance, O’Callaghan ensured that the meatless options have complex layers of flavors. He looked to ethnic cuisines such as Asian and Mediterranean for inspiration and noted that vegetables and grains were heavily used in those flavor profiles.

“We wanted to attract people because the food was good, not necessarily because it was meatless or healthy,” O’Callaghan says. “The type of food that we are doing really has pushed the creativity of the chefs. Even though we call it a meatless menu, we try and recreate things. For example, we have a grandmother’s style meatloaf, but it is made out of a lot of grains, sauerkraut and cauliflower. The flavor texture is really complex. When you take the stigma of it being healthier away, they are more willing to get involved.”

O’Callaghan says another selling point for the meatless options is that they are more upscale than other menu offerings. “Instead of a rice you have healthier grains and we are putting more emphasis on the freshness of the product,” he adds.

The meatless menu has been so popular that O’Callaghan says he might make it an everyday option.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
lettuce eat dining

Forced to battle crumbling infrastructure and a constant churn of trends, sometimes the best way to save a foodservice operation is to change it entirely. As Steve Mangan, director of dining at the University of Michigan, puts it, “At some point when your building starts to fail, the cost of maintenance stands out.” But for operators with limited budgets, the challenge is discerning the right time to do so—and how far to take it.

At Jefferson High School, change came because little worked anymore. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, school’s cafeteria hadn’t been updated since 1957; students...

Managing Your Business
farmer produce

The seeds of farm-to-table 2.0 have officially blown into noncommercial foodservice. Since the movement has caught the attention of the segment during the past decade, operators have broadened agricultural collaborations outside of just supply. As a result, a new strain of the movement has been created that treats farms as allies in events, training and innovative growing systems.

The 500-bed Overlook Medical Center in Summit, N.J., didn’t start out sourcing produce from local farms; instead, it administered its own growing programs, including an on-site garden and honeybee apiary...

Ideas and Innovation
fsd screenshot web

A full year has passed since we redesigned FoodService Director magazine, taking the publication from its longtime tabloid dimensions to a more convenient size and more creative design, and recasting the content to provide actionable, peer-to-peer insights and ideas for FSDs.

Now we are thrilled to announce that we’ve extended the makeover to our website as well. The new FoodServiceDirector.com has been redesigned to be more engaging and even easier to use. We’ve made it faster to find information, from recipes to HR best practices, that will help you run your facility better....

Managing Your Business
wage feud business

As plans to increase the minimum wage surge ahead in states such as New York and California, operators eventually will feel the reverberations shake up labor costs for more than just hourly workers. As associate wages gain on manager salaries, operators will have to answer a call for reciprocal increases. FSD spoke with operators who advised going gently into the brave new world of heightened labor costs, investing in talent and making cuts elsewhere; however, they did offer three perfectly proactive tactics to make the process as seamless as possible.

1. Keep talking

Even though...

FSD Resources