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2016 LTC/Senior Living Census: How seniors’ modern tastes are changing menus

Foodservice trends like clean labels and more vegan options are making their way into senior living, operators say. Among the 244 respondents in FoodService Director’s 2016 LTC/Senior Living Census, these two specialty food areas were projected to see the most growth in
the next two years. Here are the facts about our respondents.

Self-operated takes a hit?

self op chart

Each respondent operates foodservice in at least one of the following arenas: nursing home/skilled nursing/long-term care; assisted living; independent living; or rehabilitation/psychiatric.

self op multi pies


Average number of foodservice residents

While this year’s typical facility served 18% fewer foodservice residents compared with 2015’s average of 226 residents, it’s right on target with 2014’s average of 187 residents. The Northeast was the only region surveyed to see growth over 2015, with an average of 263 residents compared with 224 last year.

186—Average per respondent

180—Independent living

86—Nursing home/long-term care

72—Assisted living

60—Nursing home/skilled nursing

35—Rehabilitation/psychiatric

map graphic

263—Northeast

168—South

166—West

152—Central


Stepping inside the dining room

While the most common meal delivery style remained restaurant-style in a dining room (70% versus 71% in 2015), operators across facility types have made more moves away from family-style service. Just 11% of all operators offer this service option, down from 15% in 2015.

FormatsMeals served per day
 Total300 or more residentsFewer than 300 residents
Restaurant-style in dining room70%97%66%
Room service-style delivered to bedridden resident45%59%43%
Meal options delivered to bedridden resident (meal choice made at service)28%35%27%
A la carte in dining room22%56%17%
Independent living/assisted living room service23%47%19%
Buffet-style in dining room20%44%17%
Non-select tray service delivered to bedridden residents16%21%16%
Family-style in dining room11%12%10%

Do you agree?

We asked operators to rate their level of agreement with several statements on a six-point scale, where 6 was agree completely and 1 was do not agree at all. The following percentages represent those operators who agree with the statement (rated 6 or 5).

56%—Residents’ dining preferences have broadened to include more diversified cuisines in the past five years, up from 48% in 2015. Operators serving 300 or more residents per day were most likely to agree with this statement, at 76%.

43%—Residents know what they like and dislike change, making it hard to introduce new cuisines and dishes. Operators with a gross annual food and beverage purchase of less than $100,000 were most likely to agree with this statement, at 68%.  

41%—Residents have demanded more upscale, creative dishes in the past five years. Operators in the West region are most likely to agree with this statement, at 50%.

31%—In the past five years, residents have asked for more options when it comes to the locations where they can dine on campus. 

23%—Residents are asking for more flexibility in the way they use their dining allotment/meal plan. This is down 12% from 2015.


Big digit

36%—The percentage of operators who are offering late-night meals to residents, up slightly from 35% in 2015. Locations in the Central region were most likely to provide this option, at 42%.

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