Five Star Launches New Approach to Dining with Compass Group Partnership

Five Star Senior Living (Nasdaq: FVE) is undertaking a new approach to dining across its recently restructured portfolio, in partnership with Compass Group.

Newton, Massachusetts-based Five Star will begin transitioning from in-house management of its culinary program on Feb. 1, 2022, the company announced on December 3. The transition process is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

The Compass Group partnership comes on the heels of Five Star trimming its portfolio, transitioning out of more than 100 smaller properties to focus on larger continuum-of-care communities, as well as standalone independent living and active adult buildings. Five Star’s portfolio currently numbers 140 communities.


“We are also committed to evolve into delivering a differentiated, customer-focused resident experience across all segments of the repositioned portfolio of communities,” Five Star stated in materials provided to Senior Housing News. “A key part of our strategy entails collaborating with strong, like-minded partners to enhance our core service offerings so we can continue delivering exceptional service for our residents.”

Inside the strategy

Five Star historically has been an innovator in dining, including by working with celebrity chef Brad Miller.

The company stopped working with Miller last year and has been undergoing a larger reinvention. In addition to streamlining the portfolio, Five Star is pursuing service line diversification, growing its Ageility rehab and wellness platform and exploring other opportunities such as home care.


Forging relationships with “best in breed” partners like Compass Group will give Five Star’s leadership greater bandwidth while allowing its operational team to focus on its core competency of building “human relationships on the ground,” Senior Vice President Zehra Abid-Wood told SHN.

Five Star is still committed to dining innovation and will closely collaborate with Compass to create a unique offering, which will be known as Five Star Culinary (powered by Compass Group), Abid-Wood said.

Part of the approach will involve a commitment to scratch cooking with a strong component of farm-to-table and other locally sourced ingredients — giving each community a distinct culinary approach despite the size and scale of Five Star and Compass. Charlotte, North Carolina-based Compass created a new division, Compass Community Living (CCL), that combines the resources of Morrison Living and Unidine. Together, they serve more than 800 U.S. senior living communities, hospitals and health systems.

“We don’t have a one-size-fits-all approach,” Abid-Wood said. “We’re looking at how we activate the dining space in each community and starting to build the framework at the national or macro-level, and then how can we create custom experiences at the micro-level through space activation, through resident engagement, and through local relationships.”

Prioritizing workforce

Senior living providers have been affected by a severe labor crunch affecting various sectors across the U.S. economy, and dining programs have been especially hard hit.

This is due in part to the fact that dining workers are not as tied to the senior living industry as caregivers, Abid-Wood observed. A major focus in partnering with a third-party on dining was ensuring workforce stability during the transition, and strengthening the culinary workforce in the longer term.

Current Five Star dining employees will become employees of Compass through the transition period.

“Both Compass Group and Five Star put a lot of effort, before we even announced the relationship, in making sure that our dining team members would be cared for,” Abid-Wood said. “We needed to lead with that.”

At each community, the transition process will begin with Compass Group and Five Star employees sharing a meal, which is meant to set a tone of collaboration.

Going forward, Compass Group has significant resources related to recruitment and professional development.

“We are confident that this transition will afford our team members opportunities in food service and hospitality, including professional development and training, beyond what Five Star could offer,” the provider said in its statement to SHN.

In addition to disrupting labor markets, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to other dining-related pressures, including supply chain constriction and elevated costs. In light of these challenges, Five Star’s leadership believes that the partnership with Compass Group will drive broad-based efficiencies and cost savings.

“CCL will lead a range of operations, including procurement, menu creation, recipe development, staffing and labor management, clinical dietitian support and a scalable technology platform for meeting immediate, short-term and long-term operational needs,” Five Star asserted in its statement to SHN. “We expect this partnership to drive improvements in the dining experience, as well as other aspects of our business.”

During and after the transition period, the partnership will continue to define and refine the Five Star Culinary brand to meet evolving consumer expectations, Abid-Wood said.

For instance, while Covid-19 highlighted how essential dining is to socialization and the overall senior living value proposition, trends that pre-dated the pandemic will keep accelerating. One of these trends is greater optionality.

“You might have the same person who wants to dress for dinner one night and ‘grab and go’ the next,” Abid-Wood said. “And so I think it’s going to be really important in senior living dining to be able to continue to offer those choices to the customer … and to be able to operationally support that choice-based experience.”

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