Senior Living Dining: Not Just Surviving, But Thriving in a Post-COVID World

August 10, 2021
blog featured image

Dining out not only evokes cherished memories and family traditions, but it also gives senior living residents one of life’s greatest pleasures. Amid the COVID pandemic, foodservice operators might have ramped up outdoor dining and curbside pickup. However, they have adopted innovative technologies to lure senior living dining with contactless delivery, consumer meal kits, and faster takeaway.

With an increasing demand for safety and hygiene, the foodservice industry needed to prioritize the health and safety of these communities. As a result, Fulcrum Digital has compiled the Top Four Senior Dining Trends we have seen emerge to address these colossal and ongoing challenges: 

Maximizing Dining Options

There was a time when senior living residents had their way of dining, and the post-pandemic has left fewer choices than ever. Whether it is a brunch in the morning or a moonlight dinner, there is no venue to fit every taste. Fewer foodservice operators offer al fresco dining areas for residents, such as open-air patios or courtyards. Things have changed, where restaurants make dining rooms adaptable features through steps like adding seating times and dividers to define personal space better.

Meal delivery programs are increasing to provide seniors with hospitality-style dining with room service and mobile delivery carts. COVID-19’s economic toll on the foodservice industry hasn’t been evenly distributed. According to Deloitte’s report, around 94% of catering enterprises’ dine-in services got adversely affected, including a more than 80% decline in dine-in customer numbers.

Innovative Meal Choices

In 2020, new food and drink line extensions plummeted by 29% versus the prior three-year average in multi-outlet retailers and convenience stores, according to the Information Resources, Inc’s report. With customized menus, fresh foods, and made-to-order meals, foodservice operators ensure that these residents have more flexibility in their everyday meal choices. 

The focus is on improving the visual aspect of meals in exciting ways with plate presentation, food arrangement, sauce plating, and garnishing techniques. From healthy snacks to pre-cooked meals, there are a variety of ready-to-cook options for in-house dining. There are more easily available choices on light and fresh foods to improve current senior living operations. In addition, restaurants are hiring well-trained culinary teams in kitchens designed for a la minute cooking.

High-Quality Ingredients

According to the Expert Market Research, as consumers are more concerned about high-nutrition foods, the global superfoods market is expected to grow at a CAGR of about 6.2% in the forecast period of 2021 and 2026. There is more focus on taking nutrition-based meals for senior living communities than eating what fills their appetite. With more emphasis on retaining nutritional-vale of ingredients, more focus on a special diet for faster recovery from illness, such as the rise of plant-based meals and farm-to-table foods. With specialized dining programs, foodservice operators can tailor the needs of dining. As you get older, your body totally depends on a proper diet and certain conditions, so certain nutrients become especially important for good health and specific medical conditions, like diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure.

Increasing Safety and Hygiene

Due to the COVID-19, there is more emphasis on cleanliness and hygiene in the senior dining space. This means preparing, serving, handling, and storing foods to prevent contamination and any food-borne diseases. From the in-door kitchen to the live counter, everyone is wearing disposable gloves, masks, and runners clear the tables and wipe down tables and chairs more frequently than ever. No contact food delivery and takeout services provide senior living communities with as little human contact as possible.

In addition, foodservice operators emphasize eliminating cross-contamination of foods and controlled seating arrangements to allow more time to clean the restaurant. Around the world, an estimated 600 million fall ill after eating contaminated food each year, resulting in 420 000 deaths and the loss of 33 million healthy life years, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 

Final Thoughts

The foodservice industry might have faced challenges during unprecedented times, but dining in restaurants will once again be a pleasure that people across the country can enjoy. Many restaurants already opt for new technologies, such as robots that hand out takeout orders, pulley systems at registers to facilitate transactions with customers while maintaining physical distancing, and SmartScreen-controlled shelves for storing pickup orders.

By applying these practices and standards within foodservice operations for elderly living and nursing home facilities, caterers can be sure they deliver on their promises to ensure the safety, comfort, and enjoyment of those in need of our care.