Adjusting senior living menus to elevate diner experience

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At senior living facilities, food options have become more and more sophisticated, in part to better nourish residents but also as a way to improve their quality of life and increase their enjoyment and satisfaction with care. Operators are drawing inspiration from fast-casual and casual-dining restaurants to offer dishes such as customizable burrito bowls or soups garnished with any number of signature toppings. Beyond casual dining, operators can also take inspiration from higher-end, fine-dining restaurants when developing their menus. Here are a few ways to elevate the dining experience in senior living.

Tasting flights

The rise of gourmet cooking in senior living facilities has corresponded with the rise in the number of baby boomers entering those facilities. Today’s boomers are often well traveled and are familiar with current food trends. What’s more, they may be willing to pay for gourmet cooking options that let them maintain the lifestyles they are used to—lifestyles that included things like dining in restaurants and ordering takeout or delivery. One way operators can provide a restaurant-like experience is, in lieu of dining room options, to deliver tasting flights for foods such as soup to residents’ rooms. Offer small portions of three types of soup, or three small portions of the same soups served with different toppings. For example, serve a tomato soup flight: one portion of tomato soup topped with shredded cheddar cheese and croutons, for a classic taste; one portion of tomato soup topped with shredded mozzarella, fresh basil and pepperoni slices; and one portion of tomato soup topped with black beans, corn, shredded cheddar, tortilla strips and optional sliced jalapenos.

For three different soups, consider one cream-based soup, one broth-based soup and one soup that includes global flavors.

Portion-controlled menus           

One staple of fine dining includes meals that are composed of many small courses rather than one large entree. Senior living facilities can offer this style of meal as a special or as part of a rotating menu, with diners able to choose various components of the meal that they like. For instance, allow residents to choose which appetizer they’d like, which soup or salad they’d prefer, which protein they’d enjoy most as their entree and which dessert would most satisfy their sweet tooth. Offering these types of menus can make the dining experience feel a little more special.

Upscale ingredients

Operators can incorporate upscale ingredients into the menu to give every meal a little something extra. For example, offering real chopped bacon as a topping for baked potatoes instead of imitation bacon bits or a portion of crab meat atop a bowl of potato soup or clam chowder can create a more luxurious-tasting and indulgent meal. Other ways to elevate meals with high-quality ingredients can include things as simple as using fresh vegetables, instead of canned or frozen options, to complement proteins, salads, soups and more.

Highlighting health and quality

By focusing on good ingredients and highlighting that quality with diners, operators can make their facility menus feel more upscale without many changes in the back of house, and that’s something everyone can love.

This post is sponsored by Campbell's Foodservice