4 Steps for Future-Proofing In-Room Food Service

In today’s new environment of senior living, operators need more responsive technology tools to manage their dining programs and food service delivery. These tools will still be valuable past the COVID-19 pandemic, but in the immediate, there remains a level of complexity to safely feeding residents in their units.

Here is a look at four steps for future-proofing your in-room dining — and how these steps will help even after COVID subsides.

In-room ordering

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The “post-pandemic world” might be a misnomer. In a survey in January of more than 100 disease experts, nearly 90% of respondents said that they believe the coronavirus will become endemic — to say nothing of the possibility of other airborne pathogens becoming active.

Senior living operators, therefore, will need a range of dining options to keep residents safe, including dining away from the dining room, which only truly works if the resident can place orders from outside of the dining room, too. For its remote ordering, Bridgewater Retirement Community in Bridgewater, Virginia, uses campus dining solution company CBORD.

“Their program allows residents to order online, whether they’re in their room or wherever they are, and it tells us what time it needs to be there,” says Nelson Marotte, Bridgewater general manager. “We get the order and we push a button that verifies that to them, and they get an email saying they can pick it up when it’s ready to go.”

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The CBORD system also allows Bridgewater residents to order food from local restaurants, rather than just in the community.

“That is a benefit for the resident,” he says. “Sometimes you want to get … something that other restaurants do better than we do.”

Resident-centered menus

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As the task of disease management within a community grows more intricate, and resident health needs become more complex, ensuring that the dining room is serving health- and diet-appropriate food to each resident will grow more important.

A technology-driven ordering system can incorporate each resident’s dietary preferences and restrictions, so that when a given resident reviews the community’s menu, it is already tailored to meet her food needs.

“The menu that is given to them only has what they are allowed to eat. If they’re diabetic, it takes out excess sugar or products they shouldn’t have,” Marotte says.

The system accounts for less serious health elements, such as allergies, as well as personal taste.

“If they don’t like onions, they can set it up so that anything with onions won’t show up on their menu,” he says.

Safe payment transactions

The COVID-19 pandemic has been unquestionably brutal and heartbreaking, but one small positive to come from it is the innovation in so many areas of life, as people rethink everyday interactions. An increased emphasis on safe and remote payment transactions, including for senior living dining, might be one of those areas where the consumer does not want to return to normal.

The CBORD system, therefore, assigns each resident an ID number that bridges their charge cards or meal plan accounts with the dining system, reducing the amount of direct interaction required for payment. At Bridgewater, the system works with the community’s IT department and can overcome firewalls, Marotte says.

Contactless food delivery

Future-proofing a senior living dining program means rethinking the process from ordering to delivery, making contactless food delivery the final step.

“The orders come in, our chefs make the food and … it gets put into a bag, stapled with the invoice on it and it’s either direct delivery to their apartment or our resident village, or they come and pick it up,” Marrotte says.

At CBORD, all of these capabilities are the result of resident-focused development.

“One of the interesting changes that COVID has brought in is it has moved forward technology and removed some of the barrier of the perception that seniors were not into technology,” says Francisco Carbonell, CBORD product owner. “For those residents who don’t have the opportunity to come out of their room and into their dining room, usually because they are in a level of care that requires them to be managed a little differently … we know we are following specific guidelines to keep them safe.”

Marotte appreciates that.

“CBORD really allows all of the program to happen seamlessly, and without a lot of confusion or paperwork,” he says. “The reports at the end of the day are good and we get an email every morning describing everything that happened the day before. We can find out exactly what we sold, how much we sold, trends — everything that you could need to know to keep up with what your customers are looking for and allow you to adjust your menu to be more successful.”

This article is sponsored by CBORD. To learn more about how CBORD can help future-proof your dining program, visit CBORD.com/reimagine-senior-living-with-cbord.

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