This article is sponsored by DiningRD. In this Voices interview, Senior Housing News sits down with Amy Bollam, VP of Products and Education at DiningRD, to talk about some of the key dining trends shaping the senior living industry today. She explains how dining technology is driving those trends, and she breaks down the top benefits of this technology ranging from staffing and census to regulatory compliance.
Senior Housing News: What career experiences do you most draw from in your role today?
Amy Bollam: One of my very first management experiences was working as a food service director in a mid-size hospital. In that role, I juggled employee management, patient satisfaction and operations, and I quickly realized that my time during the day was not spent behind a desk — it was spent out in the kitchen, in the cafeteria, and up on the patient floors.
Today, I draw on that experience to understand, on the ground level, what food service managers are dealing with because I’ve struggled with the same challenges. They don’t have time to sit behind a desk and spend hours of their day there, they need those efficiencies so they can be out interacting with their customers and employees. That has driven me to find quick, easy-to-use solutions with our technology that help get food service managers back out into their operations.
What are some of the top menu items you’re seeing today, and how are they different from what you’ve seen in the past? Why would a senior living community need a comprehensive menu software solution?
Tastes are changing every single day. Right now, we are seeing more diversity in menu preferences than ever before. It’s so exciting to see that all transpire in senior living, where there is now a desire for so much more than just “meat and potatoes” [chuckles]. Some of the quintessential things that would be your go-tos if you ate at a restaurant are slowly permeating into the senior living sphere, and I love that for our menu diversity’s sake. That’s been really exciting to see.
A comprehensive menu software solution truly allows a manager to test some new recipe ideas, whether they’re going to do that in correlation with a special event or theme, or they just need to respond to changing tastes and dynamics within their community. That software solution is going to save food service managers the headache and time of looking up new ideas and recipes. All of those things are available right at their fingertips within the software solution itself.
How could dining technology help with staffing and census?
Dining technology solutions are all about efficiency. They put time back into food service managers’ days because the program is so easy to use. And because we’re giving all of the corresponding reports, documentation and analysis that they would need to better their operation, it also gives the food service workers, line cooks and frontline staff in the dining rooms additional efficiencies to their operations too. It’s all about improving communication between team members and helping them work smarter, not harder.
With respect to census, it helps in two different ways. No.1 is that dining technology is an awesome marketing tool because the more that you can differentiate your community from the one down the street, the more attractive your community becomes. No.2 is the bottom-line impact resulting from eliminating waste. That dining technology can make sure food service managers are responsive to a changing census from a budgeting perspective.
What does DiningRD do to support oversight from state surveys or local health departments?
This is a piece that really differentiates DiningRD because we have two arms to our organization. One is that we are registered dietitian and experts in food service and food safety, and the second is our menu software solutions. With those two things joined together, we’re able to offer our clients the best of both worlds. When we’re creating menus and recipes, we’re keeping safety and sanitation principles front of mind.
We never take off our dietitian hat to think about the regulatory aspects of creating a comprehensive menu. More specifically, within our organization, we offer our clients a comprehensive solution so that in the event they need support through regulatory challenges, we’re there as a resource for them. That’s where we want to differentiate ourselves as experts; in food and nutrition.
With technology being a focal point for senior housing operators in today’s operating environment, why should they prioritize dining technology over some of the other solutions out there?
The simple answer is that food is personal. Every single one of us has a food story to tell, and our seniors are no different. It’s why they’re vocal when they have an opinion about the food. Dining technology empowers the food service manager and the rest of the food service operations to better respond to the changing tastes of our clients. The power is in choice, and being able to offer more choices at dining times is the single most important change happening in today’s senior living environment.
In what ways do you see dining technology transforming in the next 5 to 10 years?
The crazy part is that dining technology is changing on a daily basis right now, and you don’t have to look very far to see how the technology trends specific to dining are impacting us. Just look at food delivery; you can get almost anything delivered to your front door right now. I truly believe that food is going to transform senior living within the next 5 to 10 years because again, food is personal. I truly believe that food always has been, and will always be, the centerpiece of our community’s offerings.
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Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Powered by innovative technology and guided by experienced registered dietitians, DiningRD serves more than 2,500 healthcare communities across 42 states. Dining RD is committed to improving dining and nutrition services in long-term care communities through Expert Clinical Consulting, Innovative Menu Solutions, and Training Support for food service teams. To learn more, visit https://diningrd.com/pages/menu-program.
The Voices Series is a sponsored content program featuring leading executives discussing trends, topics and more shaping their industry in a question-and-answer format. For more information on Voices, please contact [email protected].