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NaCCRA Forum: Dining

Staffing Levels and the Effect on Dining
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Our newest dining plan has flexible credits to spend anywhere. Residents pay $295 and get credit for $405 each month - equal to 25 dinners. But we can buy elsewhere like breakfast, the lunchtime cafe that is ala cart and has last nights entree and vegetable that is deeply discounted plus grill and other choices, or in a fancy restaurant style venue, or little market store, or cafe by the fitness center or pool, etc. Prior to that residents all got built in a fixed prepaid 2 meals a day plan (breakfast and dinner).

With the credits - if they run out you pay the full price for any food, If not all spent there is roll over I think that goes for 90 days - you can use it up by buying for guests.

With the new plan, a resident can opt out any day (takes effect at month's end). Or opt back in any day of the month (takes a day or so to be effective and the cost/credit is pro-rated based on number of days that first month). They removed the limitation of how many times a year you can do that.

Some like myself opted out during the pandemic last year. I opted back in at start of summer, when dining opened again, because the food was so good - all the variety of fresh LOCAL summer fruits and vegetables offered. Most nights had a big platter of sliced fresh and many heritage tomatoes - to die for. So good. The entrees improved too with a new cooker that makes meat very tender. And periodic great meat like sirloin. Fish is often hand breaded and cooked sauted or steamed (salmon choices). Summer also had large dinner entree salads like with salmon or grilled chicken added. If take out, the portions are large and can also be lunch the next day.

Linda Kilcrease

Resident of a CCRC

We have some restaurant style dining in newer resident buildings. In the traditional building dining, we've had in-person dining for a few months, buffet only or take out. No visitors at buffet but you can buy them a meal through take out. Delivery remains if nurse-approved. No menu restaurant style dining at this time due to staffing, and those needing help with serving in the buffet are provided that. They recently added back tablecloths, real glasses/cups. With days having additional staffing issues, the residents get their own drinks from a side-table and take their dirty dishes to a counter with waste basket to scrape them off. Also, some entrees are in a serving dish along the vegetable table instead of served by a staff person (fresh cooked and carving remain served by a staff person). We have 3 entrees - a meat dish, a fish dish, and other like pasta or quiche or grilled chicken caesar salad - and always baked chicken if you don't like menu. At times a pasta bar with many choices or burger bar with picnic goodies or taco bar. A nice touch since dining returned is having a surprise extra entree along the vegetable line - it may be left over meat but are always tasty, sometimes something like soft shelled crabs.


Linda Kilcrease

Resident of a CCRC

I believe we are asking the wrong question(s) and possibly getting the wrong answer(s)! Doing so allows CCRC management teams to hide behind this issue (staffing problems in the restaurant industry), assuming it to will pass, things will return to pre-pandemic staffing patterns and there will harmony in the community. Meanwhile they hold onto their high profit business model where the dining charges are buried in the Resident Monthly fee while the residents are choosing to avoid all dining venues, if they can. This business model give even more profit to the for-profit partners (Erickson) of our not-for -profit CCRCs (WindCrest). They should not be allowed to hide behind the "Dining Industry staff shortages" problem, while reaping unearned revenue from the residents who are avoiding dining at all campus restaurants because of poor food quality and erratic service. Many residents here are cooking more meals in their residences, dining out or just not eating. Residents consider them to be preferable options to eating what is being currently offered in campus restaurants. To make matters worse they are still paying the $500.00 monthly charge for food that is built into the Resident Monthly Fee.

Restaurant industry staffing shortages are a fact of life and will be with us for a long, long time. Former restaurants have migrated to other jobs they find more preferable. Students are opting not to step up in numbers that prior generations did. These trends are affecting all CCRCs. The question that should be asked is what is the respective management teams of CCRCs doing to adapt to the demographic change while providing an essential service to those who truly need or want the service.

Could CCRCs managers reduce demand for dining services by revamping their dining policies and how they charge residents for them? I believe they could. If successful, it would free up dining staff resources (cooks, servers, support staff, etc.) to better meet the dining needs of those residents who truly need or want to return to the dining experience that existed pre-COVID.

Here is a proposal:

1.) Refund to residents monies paid for meal services that were not used since the post-pandemic period began.

2.) Allow residents temporarily opt-out of the required meal plan with a fair adjustment to the monthly fee.

3,) Offer residents a reduced (10/15/20) meal plan option priced identical to the charge per meal.

4.) Offer residents a honest and fairly priced ala carte dining option, with a "roll-over" feature.

All of these features will have the effect of reducing demand for dining services and therefore free up dining resources which can be allocated by management to meet the dining needs of residents who truly need or want them.

We are a large community with 1900 residents with 1600 in independent living. We have four table service restaurants and two causal dining venues. One dining room with buffet service closed at the start of the pandemic. It needs a kitchen renovation so it will not open again for a few years due to lack of capital funds for the work. The buffet style will be eliminated permanently.

A smaller dining room has closed due to lack of staffing. The remaining staff were moved to the two dining rooms. This same dining room closed from November - January for the same reason. It happens to be in the building where I live so now I have to take a hike to get to the others. Carryout is available and delivery is still available but it is not encouraged. We have a higher vacancy rate in dining services than we have in health care.

Interesting post. In my CCRC in SE CT we have been back in our main dining room and grille for about 6 weeks despite staffing shortages. Our main problem now is cajoling residents to come to the dining spaces for their meals. About half of our population prefer to have the meal delivered next to their closest elevator (free) or directly to their apt ($4.00 surcharge). Delivering the meals drains the availability of service in the dining space.

Staffing, while a factor, is not the main driver of dining service in Bloomfield, CT; Covid-Delta strategies have motivated our admins to pull back from face-to-face dining, buffet style, until after Labor Day weekend.

In response to Richard’s post, I live at Medford Leas in Medford, New Jersey. As of tomorrow our table service dinners stop on Saturdays and Sundays. Informal cafeteria dining plus takeout are the only options unless a resident eats in a restaurant. Note that guests (family and friends) are not allowed.

Same staffing problem here. Once ordered, our dinners are delivered to our doors, free of delivery charge. We also can pick up meals at our cafeteria-style cafe.

Our dining room table service will end on Monday due to a staffing shortage. Take out meals only. How are other facilities handling the issue of staffing?

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