Larry Bates: Service-Oriented

At Riddle Village, Larry Bates ensures his residents have variety, flexibility in their program.


LARRY BATES has upgraded foodservice at RIDDLE VILLAGE by:

  • Fostering a team atmosphere where managers have the freedom to be creative
  • Adding dining venues and amenities to prevent resident boredom
  • Implementing the flex dining program, where residents have a certain dollar amount to spend each month
  • Increasing menu options and adding upscale items  

Tursi says the team also makes every effort to make catered events special for residents. For example, one resident wants to do a 65th wedding anniversary lunch for a group of 45. “I asked her what her bridesmaids wore and what her colors were so that we could try to match,” she says. “ Whenever a resident wants to do something personal we always make it special.”

Flex dining: After adding all the different options for the residents, Bates wanted to put even more control into their hands. He implemented a flex dining program a year ago that works like a declining balance plan on a college campus. Most retirement communities have a per-meal dining plan each month. If residents don’t use all their allotted meals in the month, they “lose” those meals. Also, if residents only ate a bowl of soup at lunch and wanted a meal at dinner, that would count as two meals, instead of the resident being allowed to carry over money between meal periods.

With the flex dining program residents are given a certain amount of money allotment each month. They are free to use that wherever and however they choose. The program allows the residents the freedom to take advantage of all the different dining venues. For example, a resident could grab a drink and appetizer at the lounge before eating dinner in the Governor’s Inn.

Another positive, Bates says, is that residents are using their flex dining plans to bring in family or friends to join them for a meal. That, in turn, helps market the facility to the outside community.

The flex dining program took the staff and residents some getting used to, Bates admits. The staff had to learn a new POS system, similar to what is used at any commercial restaurant. Bates says it took about three months for the residents to get used to the new program, but they have now come to love the flexibility. “The reality is they are making out better,” he adds.

Bates says the residents have changed some of their dining patterns since the flex program started. More residents are eating in the buffet and the volume in the Governor’s Inn has decreased slightly. “The more time that goes by the better they get at managing those dollars for their best interest,” Bates says.

Menu changes: Because of the flex dining program, residents also have a broader choice of foods, many of them on the upscale side. Before the flex dining program it didn’t make financial sense for Bates to offer certain dishes on the everyday menu. Now, Bates is able to offer dishes like filet mignon, shrimp cocktails and lobster tail because he can charge more for those items than for other options that are less expensive to produce.

The Governor’s Inn offers four daily entrée options, along with an á la carte menu that has 13 options.

Even with all the changes to Riddle Village’s dining program, Bates isn’t slowing down. The café is scheduled for a complete remodel in the near future. That renovation, Bates says, will be yet another way residents can get more choices and have greater flexibility in their dining program.  

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