Almost (but not quite) ready to move into a senior living community? Check out the dining – it could be the deciding factor. In fact, the dining experience at senior living facilities has been elevated in recent years to the point where many communities mirror, and in some ways exceed, their local restaurant counterparts.
And the best communities aren’t just doing dinner well. All-day, every day, their chefs showcase their breadth of capabilities. For example, some communities now offer an in-house bar, bistro, café, and formal dining room options. Jamie Rucci, executive director of the Discovery Village at the West End said, “We like to do pop-up dining events. It might be a theme that we run for a week or a couple of days, but we don’t usually advertise it – it just appears. Earlier this year we did a Crab Shack event where we offered soft-shell crabs and other dishes for a limited time only – a little less than a week because the soft-shell crabs ran out. Another favorite was our ‘50s-themed pop-up event. Homemade milkshakes were the biggest hit.”
Need more evidence that communities are stepping up their dining games even further? “We offer classic dishes that residents recognize, but with a twist,” continued Rucci. “It might be Chicken Marsala – but it’s going to have shiitake mushrooms. It might be a dish with marinara sauce, but we give it a modern touch by making it a sun-dried tomato infused marinara sauce. The meals and experiences have to be sensational enough that residents want to invite family and guests to show off where they live, and the menus need to be broad enough for a true intergenerational experience.”
The high standard of dining in communities also encourages new business partnerships. Joe Lowrie, national director of culinary services for Discovery Senior Living, in Bonita Springs, Fla., said, “We’ve partnered with a local coffee roaster from the Tampa area. At coffee tastings at each of our communities, our residents choose the coffee flavor profiles that they desire, and then our roasters ship the coffee on the same day they get our chef’s order. It arrives directly at our communities, as early as the next day. We’ve also partnered with an alliance of 50-plus independently owned specialty distributors of fresh products to bring quality fruits and vegetables to our culinary teams to ensure our residents enjoy only the freshest ingredients from local farmers.”
It should come as no surprise then that with house-branded coffee, wine, signature sauces, desserts, and more, communities are inciting pride among their residents, who enjoy such an exclusive and individual culinary experience. Communities even base some of their activities and events on it.
“It is so nice not to need anything catered for our events,” said Rucci. “Our chef does such a great job at impressing our residents and their family members that we don’t have to worry about who will cater to our next large event. Everyone prefers the chef-prepared meals and appetizers we serve.”
When you have a private chef cooking for you every day, who needs to cook?