Lifestyle

Senior Living Operators Turn Focus to Cost Control in Dining Programs

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Senior living operators see their dining programs as a blend of hospitality and health care, and many companies are taking a fresh look at keeping costs low in the year ahead.

That’s according to a new survey from Senior Housing News and Gordon Food Service. The survey includes responses from 113 professionals representing senior living and care companies, the vast majority of which were C-suite leaders, directors and vice presidents.

According to the survey’s results, senior living operators in 2024 are focused on controlling dining costs amid inflation, and many are using dining technology to help maintain their financial footing.

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A total of 64 respondents noted that they see their approach to dining as a mixture of health care and hospitality. Another 42 identified their dining programs as “hospitality-first.”

As costs continue to rise across multiple budget line items, many operators are using menu planning tech, better ingredient management and reducing kitchen waste to help bridge the gap – as noted by 72, 57 and 52 respondents, respectively. Another 51 respondents said they were cross-utilizing labor and equipment resources.

A total of 50 respondents noted using menu management tech, while 49 said they used tech regarding scheduling staff and 45 said they use point-of-sale technology. Online food ordering tech was identified as being used by 44 respondents, while another 39 said they used inventory management tech in their operations. Just 18 said they used robots.

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Costs and inflation were the top challenges for senior living dining programs, with 101 respondents identifying them as such. Another 92 said retaining labor would remain a top challenge for the year ahead, while 64 noted meeting resident demands. Only seven noted regulatory changes.

Operators said referral bonuses were most effective to retain workers, followed by retention bonuses, staff development programs and higher wages.

As for how they plan to improve senior living dining this year and beyond, 71 respondents said they would try to create more dining room flexibility. Another 44 said they are adding quick-serve or bistro venues, while 41 are turning to more open spaces and communal dining settings.

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