Senior dining is being reinvented—and with good reason.
Homestead Village in Lancaster, Pa., is the perfect example. In 2013, Homestead overhauled its main dining room to meld the desires of its two biggest resident groups: baby boomers and the Silent Generation. With the help of its foodservice provider, Cura Hospitality, Homestead spent $150,000 and was able to create a space that offers casual table service for breakfast, a casual food court for lunch and formal table service for dinner.
Doug Motter, president of Homestead, who has been with the community for 17 years, played a pivotal role in the remodel. He shares with FM how Homestead was able to create a dining space that caters to two very different demographics with three very different styles of service.
Q: What was dining like at Homestead before the renovation?
A: Originally, from 1986-1994, it was just a formal, table service. In 1994, a club room was added that served breakfast and lunch and a casual evening option. In 2004, due to the popularity of casual dining, we flipped the dining rooms and made the club room formal and the main dining room casual. Breakfast and lunch also moved to the main dining room, which was set up with a buffet and salad bar. By 2010, formal dining had all but disappeared and limited table service was added to the casual dining room.
Q: What changed in 2013?
A: Residents weren’t happy with the lack of formal dining. We had heard from a number of them that they missed having the option, especially when they were entertaining friends.
Q: So what did you do?
A: John Lush, general manager for Cura, suggested it was time for a face-lift. So we created a separate and extensive food court for the lunch meal and doubled the size of the dining room. We created three distinct types of service: casual table service for breakfast, a casual food court for lunch featuring made-to-order chef-prepared meals, a salad bar, a sandwich bar and hot food options and the evening meal went back to being formal with exclusive table service.
Q: What was the residents’ reaction to a return to formal dining?
A: Usage is up, so I’d say they’re happy.
Q: To go is also popular with residents, right?
A: It is. In the evening, food can be ordered and packaged for residents to take with them. We have between 30 and 40 residents who use this option almost daily.
Q: Tell us more about the daily service options?
A: During breakfast, guests seat themselves. Our friendly servers take their order and bring them one of our many made-to-order breakfast offerings.
Our lunchtime experience features choices of chef-prepared specials, made-to-order deli sandwiches, hot entrées and a salad bar that focuses on fresh vegetables and fruit. We also have a chef's action station, which features a different entrée every day. Residents choose the ingredients and our staff prepares it a la minute.
For dinner, the dining room transitions into seated, waited service with table linens to make the evening meal feel more upscale and formal.
On Sundays, brunch is a big deal with all you can eat or à la carte choices and stations for waffles, omelets and other specialties.
Q: How has the menu changed as a result of the service changes?
A: The menu is constantly evolving. It has to. We have a captive audience so we keep it fresh and interesting. Plus, [Lush] has been really great about training the staff and promoting from within. Our Executive Chef Eloy Jaimes knows our residents and is able to push the envelope without turning them off. Chef is fantastic—and that shows in our residents’ satisfaction.
Q: What have been the biggest challenges for Homestead operationally?
A: The shift to an action station has been the biggest change. But residents enjoy getting close to the chef and interacting with him as their food is being prepared. We’ve also shifted toward more healthful food options. The salad bar is unbelievable. And we’re trying to do more scratch-made ingredients, like salad dressing, for example.
Q: What’s next for Homestead?
A: I think we’ll build on display cooking, as it’s been popular with residents. We’d also like to incorporate pizza ovens and further improve our infrastructure.
Q: How do you see senior dining evolving?
A: There’s absolutely a place for casual dining in retirement communities, but I think we make a solid case for formal, too. I think, above all else, senior dining will continue to respond to the changing needs and wants of our guests, no matter their age.