How much thought do you put into dinner? Whatever your answer, it’s probably not close to the consideration the food and beverage teams at senior living communities put into executing each meal service. They work hard to accommodate the unique dietary preferences and needs of residents every day, a task that can be especially daunting when faced with unexpected challenges like those presented by COVID-19. We reached out to two local communities to learn more about their dining operations.
friendship village chesterfield
The main dining room at Friendship Village Chesterfield seats up to 320 people, and the community has another bistro dining option that seats 70. Food and beverage director Emmanual Teferi says there are many challenges with serving such a large and diverse population. “We offer a lot of meal options, but there may be individuals with special dietary needs beyond what’s on the menu,” he says. “Our chefs and dieticians listen to residents to create solutions.” That ingenuity certainly was put to the test when the pandemic hit last spring.
Currently, the dining spaces at Friendship Village are operating at 50% capacity, but the community’s food and beverage services functioned as delivery only for much of 2020. Teferi says it was a big challenge to completely switch operations, but the team handled the transition well. It created a call center to manage orders, and the brigade developed a system to put together and deliver meals. “We had to streamline the menu some to make sure we could operate efficiently and execute everything properly, but the residents loved it,” he says. “Delivery is still really heavy, and the system is working great.”
The pandemic has made some lasting changes to how Friendship Village handles certain aspects of dining, according to Teferi. Since residents enjoyed the increased carryout and room service options, elements of the more robust system will remain in place, and the community will no longer offer traditional buffets. “This past year of COVID-19 has taught the team to be more adaptable,” he says. “We came together under difficult circumstances, and it really made us stronger and better at what we do.”
creek valley retirement community
Opening earlier this month, Creek Valley Retirement Community in Ellisville built a strong relationship with the local health department to ensure seniors could safely move in and begin enjoying amenities. With the majority of staff and residents vaccinated, the all-inclusive community was able to open with regular dining services. “We’re following best practices and local guidelines, including wearing masks, using other personal protective equipment and following social distancing protocols” says Kelly Jo Hinrichs, vice president of marketing for Resort Lifestyle Communities. “We had the benefit of opening a year out from the start of the pandemic, so Creek Valley hasn’t been as impacted as other communities.”
The luxury community offers what it refers to as ‘freedom dining.’ “It’s just what it sounds like,” Hinrich notes. “Residents have the ability to choose from a wide variety of options.” The dining room serves three meals a day and features both an exhibition kitchen and fine dining area, which offers reservations. Along with standard meals, Creek Valley also provides room service; snack and beverage stations; a pizza and sandwich station open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and a chef’s pantry, offering 24-hour, grab-and-go options.
Hinrich notes that the community has a robust culinary team, featuring both executive and sous chefs, and food is prepared fresh daily. This makes it easy for Creek Valley to meet the unique needs and preferences of individual residents. “There’s a lot of flexibility, so we can offer a variety of meal selections, whether it’s based on palate or dietary needs,” she says.