Brad Lange: A New Comfort Level

After a move West, Brad Lange has settled in and made his mark at Park Regency retirement community.

By Becky Schilling, Editor

Accomplishments

BRAD LANGE has revitalized the foodservice at PARK REGENCY by:

  • GAINING the respect and trust of his staff, which has increased staff satisfaction
  • RETRAINING cooks to cater to the seniors' dining preferences
  • INCREASING resident satisfaction through weekly Menu Chats and making himself visible in the dining room
  • STARTING an all-day dining program and increasing the menu mix
  • CONSOLIDATING to one standard menu, which has improved consistency and lowered costs

Like a lot of teenagers, Brad Lange took a job working in a restaurant as a dishwasher. After a stint in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, Lange found himself without a paycheck. “I couldn’t get a job, so I got back in the kitchen,” he says. “I didn’t think I would be going back in the kitchen again. Then I went to culinary school. I tried my hand in just about everything [hospitals and hotels, mostly in New York City]. I feel comfortable where I am.”

That place is 220-resident Park Regency, a retirement community in Chandler, Ariz. Park Regency is part of Brookdale Senior Living, which operates more than 550 assisted living and retirement communities throughout the country. Lange has been the director of dining services for the past eight months. “I’m loving it out here,” he says. “I’ve been out here since ’96. It’s a lot easier than working in New York City. I had my windows shot out when I worked in the city, so I said, ‘I’ve got to get out of here.’”

Lange’s comfort at Park Regency has spread to his staff as well. Executive Chef Jacinda Shipe has been with the community for five years, and she says that since Lange’s arrival employee satisfaction has increased. “In the kitchen the employees have become a happier crew and less stressed,” she says. “Brad is very hands-on and he’s in the mix. He’s easy to approach when we have problems. He doesn’t mind getting in and helping us out. He makes it possible to enjoy the work that we do. He inspires us to do the best that we can.”

Retraining: Lange knew he wanted to make changes to the community’s menus, but first he had to retrain his staff to cater to the senior’s dining preferences. “When you’re dealing with senior citizens, if it tastes good, but it’s not tender they’re not going to eat it,” he says. “Dealing with seniors, they know what they want. A lot of our residents are from New York, so you know how they are. They expect to get what they paid for, no if, ands or buts. My predecessor here was always in his office. I had to retrain all the cooks in the way I felt it should be done.”

Lange says most of the retraining was done informally by working alongside his kitchen staff to show them how he wanted items prepared. “First you have to gain [the staff’s] respect and show them that you really know what you are talking about,” he says. “I did that by getting in there and digging in. If someone went on vacation I would cover his/her shift. Treat them with respect and things fall into place.”

“He trains by example,” Shipe says. “When he sees something that he figures he can improve, he gets in there. He’s brought a whole new element into our kitchen. He’s allowed us to do more high-end things than what we were doing before. He’s raised the bar for us. He’s made [the staff] eager to learn things. He’s told them that the food they put out is a reflection of them and they need to be proud of what they put out.”

Face time: The staff aren’t the only ones who are happier since Lange’s arrival. Resident satisfaction also has increased. Shipe attributes that change to what she says is Lange’s greatest trait: listening. “The residents love him because he will go out [in the dining room], interact with them and talk with them. He has told them that if at any point they need to see him or talk to him, his door is always open.”

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