NexDine, a fast-growing, privately-held, Massachusetts-based FM Top 50 firm that has been operating primarily in the corporate dining and private school markets, is now undertaking an expansion into senior dining and healthcare as part of a strategy to adjust to the new realities brought on by the COVID pandemic. To support that strategy, the company has rebranded as NexDine Hospitality Group to emphasize an expanded suite of services for multiple market segments and added two key new executives—Larry Abrams as president/COO and Jackie Harris as Chief Experience Officer, both with long experience in the healthcare and senior dining markets.
Abrams brings more than 25 years of healthcare, senior living, education and corporate dining leadership to NexDine, having served most recently as COO of FM Top 50 healthcare services management firm HHS Hospitality Services. Previously, he was president of the healthcare, corporate and senior living group for Unidine, also an FM Top 50 firm until its acquisition by Compass Group several years ago.
Harris has over 30 years of experience in the senior living industry, including having served as CEO of the Intergrace and Trinity senior living communities, and is nationally recognized and respected for expertise in creating a resident-centric model of care.
“While some companies look to retrench as a result of the pandemic and economic contraction, NexDine sees—and is seizing—the opportunity to re-invent the company, enter new markets, and expand the expertise and support we offer our clients across all the markets we serve,” said CEO David Lanci in a statement announcing the changes.
In its most recent Top 50 report, NexDine had indicated that the vast majority of its business came from B&I (76%) and independent/private schools (16%), with behavioral health facilities (3%) and eldercare (2%) contributing minimal revenues. The new strategy looks to build on that, says David Chechik, executive vice president for growth & retention.
“We had in the past been approached by healthcare companies and senior living companies to do their dining service, which was great but we wanted to do it the right way, so we’ve been building out the infrastructure, getting in the right people and the technology, which has always been a critical component of our business,” he explains. “This was all teed up prior to COVID, but what it has enabled us to do is to accelerate the expansion. We will be looking at all verticals on a national basis.”
NexDine had already begun expansion into broader client services with the debut of its Corfinity onsite fitness center management program just before COVID hit. Those efforts will now be expanded and adapted to meet the needs of clients in multiple segments, including senior living and healthcare.
As for the company’s traditional markets, Chechik notes that the private/independent school portion of the K-12 market has generally been more receptive to re-opening for in-person instruction, although onsite dining services have to be significantly adjusted to conform to social distancing and other restrictions.
“Even on the B&I side, [onsite dining] is never going to go away for us,” he adds, “but what we’re finding is that while more and more of our clients are opening up, the structure and scope of the services is being modified because as companies come back on-line, they are not coming back 100% from day one. Many are doing these phased-in approaches, which we see as an opportunity to reposition the business.”
He notes that NexDine already has technology solutions such as mobile order capability that could be leveraged in the current environment. Previously, they didn’t get as much traffic because many customers still preferred to go in person to a servery and “be romanced by the food. We might have had 3% adoption [of mobile ordering] prior to COVID, but now it’s well over 50 or 60%, and the great thing is that customers are already familiar with it, so we didn’t have to create the wheel, the wheel was already there.”
The emphasis will also be on customer experience. Checkik outlines it as the distinction between getting a coffee at a Dunkin’ Donuts drive-up window and the engagement with a barista at a Starbucks counter.
“We’re creating an experience instead of a transactional [event] and that’s a key reason we brought Jackie on board—to lead that initiative, both internally for us as an organization as we go out to all of our clients, but also as a consulting service.” He notes that Harris’ experience with resident-centric models of care is especially valuable because the senior living segment requires more attention to customer engagement than most others as residents often rely on mealtimes for needed socialization.