2017 LTC/Senior Living Census: Departing dayparts

Dana Moran, Managing Editor

While breakfast, lunch and dinner aren’t going anywhere, senior diners are beginning to search for options beyond these traditional dayparts. And the 226 respondents to FoodService Director’s 2017 LTC/Senior Living Census have noticed—they’ve increased their offer when it comes to snacks and late-night dining. Read on to see how things have changed from 2016—and how operators are responding to new demands across the board.

Who's the boss?

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

Average number of foodservice residents

169—Independent living

96—Nursing home/long-term care

78—Assisted living

69—Nursing home/skilled


What diners want

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 strongly agree with the statement (rated 6 or 5). While diners seemed to be leaning more toward diversified cuisines in 2016, more operators told us this year that their residents knew what they liked and did not want change. But with more regional American flavors popping up in noncommercial dining overall (like Southern or Cajun, as you’ll see at right), trends just may be falling in line with senior diners’ favorite flavors from their childhood.

Trends on the brain

We asked operators to share some popular menu trends or flavors they’ve added in the past year. Here are the results:

Cleaning house

Growth has slowed among gluten-free items; 46% of respondents expect to increase use in their operations in the next two years, compared to 51% in 2016. However, clean-label items seem to be on the rise, up from 16% growth in 2016, and 75% of operators in facilities with gross annual F&B purchases above $5 million plan to increase their buy of these items.

Big digit

99%—The percentage of operators who are offering snacks to diners, up from 92% in 2016. Meanwhile, 41% of operators now are offering late-night dining, up from 36% in 2016. Operators in the West region were most likely to offer late-night dining, at 58%.

New dishes operators have added

• Balsamic raspberry pork
• Beer can chicken
• Chicken with sun-dried tomato cream sauce
• Dr Pepper pulled pork
• Root beer floats
• Beet and potato salad
• Frutti di mare seafood stew
• Sesame-crusted seared ahi tuna
• Pastys
• Avocado spreads

Sourcing locally

Overall, local sourcing seems to be on the decline among senior living operators. For example, 56% of operators sourced at least some produce locally in 2015; that number dropped to 49% in 2016 and 41% in 2017.



27%—Baked goods




39%—We are not sourcing any products locally.

Team spirit

Staffing challenges: Everyone has them, but how do they manifest themselves? For the first time, we surveyed senior living/LTC FSDs about their issues on the HR front; applicants were asked to choose all of the categories below that applied. Among the responses that didn’t fit the categories below were inability to pass a drug test and the length of time required for background checks.

Please send help!

When we asked operators the biggest overall issue they’d like help with, words like “salaries,” “wages,” “staffing,” “retention” and “turnover” came up time and time again. But others listed more detailed requests.

• Helping make the image of senior dining careers more appealing to younger people
• Cooperation between enhancing dining programs and staying in compliance
• Teamwork through all departments
• Transforming a foodservice operation into a truly hospitality-focused endeavor
• Quantity andbatch-cooking training
• Help with bridging the gap between millennials and baby boomers
• More organic/non-GMO options from our supplier

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