Attracting top chefs to senior living

As the segment grows and clientele changes, the role of the chef is also seeing a makeover.

CHICAGO—With the evolution of food service in senior living, from cafeteria to full-service restaurant, comes a new attention to another important aspect of dining: Hiring.

As “scoop and serve” models of the past are making way for restaurant-style dining services in senior living, providers are taking note of their hiring practices—which today involve recruitment of experienced chefs who, more often than not, do not have backgrounds in senior living.

Most say that in hiring for dining, there are two major differences between preparing food for senior living versus a restaurant clientele: first, a captive audience. Second, superior schedule and quality of life.

“The only difference is that in other dining segments, guests come in and go home,” says Morrison Senior Living Senior Corporate Executive Chef John Rifkin. “But here, it is their home. You have to be more on your game because this is where the residents live.”

From a business standpoint, however, Rifkin says the concept is the same: grow and retain business through superior service.

Largely, this has been a revolution over the past several years.

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