Brad Lange: A New Comfort Level
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
Lange makes it a point to go into the dining rooms every day to talk with the residents about what they liked and didn’t like about the day’s meal. “The residents say, ‘I don’t want to complain,’ and I tell them I don’t take it as complaining, I take it as concerns,” Lange says. “The main thing is when they tell you something you need to address it. A lot of managers go around and say, yeah, yeah, yeah, and they don’t follow through. You gain [residents’] admiration and respect just by doing what they request. If they request a certain thing, make it. Then see how they liked it. If they have a better recipe, ask them for it.
“I was talking to someone and he was just happy to know that someone was there,” Lange adds. “After a while [the residents] get to know that I’m sincere when I ask. My managers also go out in the dining room and ask them. We tell them if we don’t know it’s broken we can’t fix it.”
Every Monday Lange holds a Menu Chat with the residents in each level of care: assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing and independent living. During the meetings the residents tell Lange what they liked and didn’t like about the past week’s menu and Lange goes over the upcoming week’s menu. “They like to see old country-style food,” Lange says about resident preferences. “If they can’t pronounce it they don’t want to eat it. It’s got to be fall-off-the-bone tender. We cook everything slow at a low temperature.”
Menu changes: Lange also implemented an all-day dining program. Residents can now dine whenever they feel like coming to the dining rooms. Each day there is a daily entrée special, and that entrée is offered during set times. If a resident comes to dine during a period when the special entrée is not offered, he/she can select from an off-hours menu. The off-hours menu has between 15 and 20 options, which are made to order, including hamburgers, a fish of the week, BLT sandwiches and turkey wraps.
When the all-day dining program was implemented, the menus also changed. Before all-day dining, the different skill levels had different menus. Now all skill levels have the same menu. “Now we have one big inventory where we can share together,” Lange says. “If we need five cases of one product instead of everybody ordering three for one building and three for another building, we just order the five cases and divvy it up. It helps with inventory control, and we are able to cut our costs and control our pennies more.”
Getting involved: In addition to the weekly Menu Chats, Lange and his team do monthly cooking demonstrations to get the residents involved with the dining department. The cooking demos are done in conjunction with Brookdale’s 2011 Celebrations: Amazing Places of the World theme. The Celebrations program “take[s] residents on a virtual trip around the world,” according to the company’s website. The program is a “life enrichment and dining program opportunity.” Each month a different location is “visited.” January’s location was the Venice waterways in Italy; May was the Mayan Ruins in Mexico and August’s location was the Serengeti in Tanzania.
“The cooking demos coincide with our theme meal for the month,” Lange says. “We’re doing the Serengeti this month so we did pumpkin fritters. They like to see the demo, but they are more interested in eating it.” The demos are done in each building, often by a member of Lange’s staff. “I want to give a lot of credit to my staff,” he says. “A manager is only as good as the people around him. Everything that we’ve accomplished I couldn’t have accomplished without them.”
In addition to cooking demos, the month’s Celebrations location is capped off with a birthday theme dinner. “We go from soups to nuts with this,” Lange says. “We have soup, an appetizer, a salad, two entrées based on the theme and a special dessert. The only thing about the appetizer is that the residents like shrimp cocktail, no matter what the theme is. I learned my lesson [during] the first one. I didn’t serve shrimp cocktail. Now whatever the theme is we make sure we serve shrimp cocktail.”