New menu lets residents get favorites every day.
The traditional view of onsite dining is that you must provide day-to-day variety to avoid the dreaded “menu fatigue.” But at the Country Manor Nursing Home in Roseville, IL, Dining Service Director Robert Weyant found that many residents would rather have their favorite dishes day after day.
Weyant had offered a buffet line for the past five years, which gave diners a choice of two entrees, two sides and two vegetables each day. However, many didn’t like being restricted to a pair of revolving choices day after day, so this past August Weyant tweaked the buffet by installing a set menu, which includes daily specials to offer some variety.
Now, all the residents’ favorites are available every day and are made to order. They can even order ahead, a service that Weyant says has been a big hit.
“I thought they would like the to-order service because it gives them a chance to socialize while the food is being prepared,” he says. “But it’s just the opposite. They want to get their food immediately without having to wait for it.”
The pre-orders are available from the hydration cart that makes its way around the wards between mealtimes. The completed order forms are collected and returned to the kitchen. They include the time that each resident wants his or her order to be done and waiting. “This way, they can come in, sit down and be served right away,” Weyand says.
The menu Weyand put together consists primarily of traditional favorites. There are nearly a dozen hot and cold sandwich options ranging from cheeseburger and Philly steak to fried egg and peanut butter and jelly, eight entrees choices ranging from an 8-oz. ribeye to country fried steak and a variety of sides and beverages. The breakfast menu—from eggs cooked to order and pancakes to hot or cold cereal and sliced bagel—is available all day.
Weyand says the only major labor-related change he had to make to install the short-order system was to hire an additional three-hour position for evening cooking duties. “I didn’t want to be caught short-handed if everybody came in looking for dinner at the same time,” he says.
Country Manor has 60 residents, and visitors are encouraged to eat with them as a social stimulus. For this reason, prices have been kept low (the 8-oz. ribeye steak dinner is only $5.00, for example). It seems to be working as visitor participation is up.
The short order menu also produced other benefits besides increased customer satisfaction (in fact, Weyand proudly notes, “the complaints have pretty much stopped”). For instance, there has been a reduction in weight loss, always a concern in eldercare environments, and food waste is also down, leading to cost savings on food purchasing.
In the future Weyand plans to add a baker to the staff before the end of the year to produce fresh baked goods and to introduce 24-hour service in the near future.