3 ways to craft boomer-friendly menus

seniors boomers dining foodservice

From Mrs. Dash Foodservice.

Baby boomers, that massive generation that decided long ago that they could have and do it all (born between 1946 and 1965), is either in or will be getting into the midst of retirement age soon. And many boomers are now, or already have been, eyeing healthcare facilities and retirement communities. It is important that these facilities meet or exceed the high expectations of this generation, especially when it comes to food.

To cater to this demographic, foodservice directors must keep boomers’ distinct preferences in mind, including needs and wants facing this aging demographic, when structuring and delivering foodservice options.

For example, consider heart healthy, low-sodium offerings: 22% of Boomers indicate they are looking for lower-sodium options when eating out vs. prior year, according to Mintel 2016 data. Other attributes this demographic is looking for on menus for include natural, GMO-free, antibiotic-free and hormone-free (Mintel 2016).

The following three areas are great places to start or continue a boomer-centered focus. 

Better-for-you callouts

Baby boomers, more so than older generations, look for foods labeled “fresh,” “clean,” “local” and “authentic.” Some 55% of boomers say they’re more likely to purchase food labeled “fresh,” and 32% are willing to pay more for items with that attribute, according to Technomic’s 2016 Generational Consumer Trend Report. In most cases, though, while boomers are drawn to these callouts, they’re not as willing to pay more for them as other generations, the report found. This is likely because they expect such foods and don’t view them as worthy of an upsell.

Boomers, however, are less interested in “free-from” foods, such as those without antibiotics, hormones or preservatives, than younger generations.

Look for ways to use local produce in your dining facility, perhaps even enlisting residents to assist with a community garden. The Garlands of Barrington in Illinois, for example, features an on-site herb garden that generates produce for a variety of dishes. Be sure to label foods that are housemade or feature local ingredients so residents know about them. Call out the health attributes of foods, particularly those that are low in sodium or sugar.

Menu a range of casual and upscale

This generation of senior-living residents is looking for more diverse, and, in many cases, customizable menu offerings from casual to upscale concepts than their older neighbors. Sodexo recently rolled out Bistro 464 to offer more diverse, higher-end menu items at its senior-living communities.

Similarly, a new tower at the Westminster-Thurber retirement community in Columbus, Ohio, features a pub-style dining center, a gourmet coffee shop, a grab-and-go center and a traditional, sit-down restaurant. And boomers like variety: Some 52% of them say a wide variety of options to choose from drives their business at full-service restaurants, according to Technomic’s generational report.

Stick with the classics

Boomers are willing to experiment with ethnic cuisine in moderation. For example, they over-index on their preference for Italian food, likely because this was one international cuisine available when they were younger. And some 71% of boomers prefer Asian-inspired dishes and 68% favor Mexican dishes, Technomic found. Younger boomers, however, outpace older ones in their affinity for Mexican food, the study found. Boomers also lean toward lighter Mediterranean-inspired dishes, such as seafood and salads, more so than other generations.

Keeping these options of flavor-packed, customizable or fresh fare are great starting points to satisfy the preferences of the aging baby boomer generation. Plus, all can be prime places to incorporate low-sodium, natural and other offerings when designing and crafting the menu.

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