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A senior living dining staff person checking in with an elderly couple to see if they are enjoying their meal

Dining Staff Retention: The Ultimate Staffing Challenge

Attracting and retaining staff is a challenge across the senior care industry. But, when it comes to the dining staff, community owners are having an exceptionally difficult time keeping them in-house. According to the 20th annual Assisted Living Salary & Benefits Report, the turnover rate for dining services staff is 36.91%, which is higher than the average rate across all positions.

In senior living, dining is a differentiator. Having the proper staff to plan, prepare, and serve delicious, quality meals is an essential component of the overall health and experience of residents. It’s time for senior living communities to turn this around and become places where dining staff actually want to work — and stay. Hopefully, this can be accomplished with some strategic thinking, and the right technology.

Variety Is the Spice of Life
Variety is high on the list of senior living food preferences according to surveys among residents, and communities are going outside of what’s tried-and-true to make dining fun for residents, as well as to challenge chefs to come up with new concepts. The head pastry chef at The Mather — a life plan community in Evanston, IL — once went a full year without making the same dessert twice for residents.

However, residents aren’t the only ones who crave some variety. For staff, creating the same meals day in and day out can become very monotonous, resulting in job dissatisfaction. To keep cooking and dining staff interested and engaged in their role, allow them to create and serve food they’re excited about (and meets the nutritional requirements of your residents, of course).

Another way to keep dining staff engaged is by communicating the importance of their role within the organization and creating a sense of purpose. When staff feel connected to the purpose of an organization, and how they contribute, they experience a feeling of caring about something bigger than themselves.

To help accomplish this, senior living administrators and executive directors should personally engage with all levels of kitchen staff — from cooks to waiters, baristas to head chefs — and communicate why exactly their daily roles are so important. After all, if done right, their jobs not only contribute to the success of the community, but they also make the lives of residents all the better.

Nutrition Management Is Key
At the same time, senior living communities should focus on the actual food they’re serving their residents. It should be healthy, delicious and nutritious, and residents should look forward to eating it.

Using a nutrition management system can help communities guarantee their food is meeting the necessary nutrition standards, all while inspiring them to serve creative, tasty meals. A great nutrition management solution should have an easy-to-use menu builder for senior living dieticians and dietary managers, as well as a tool that enables providers to plan resident menus more efficiently.

Storing all menus and recipes in a centralized system also provides continuity if a staff member is absent or has left the facility. If your residents have a favorite meal, but the chef who typically cooks is no longer with the facility, storing the recipe allows for another chef to replicate the dish and keep residents happy.

Specifically, PointClickCare’s nutrition management system can automatically insert a main food choice selection based on a resident’s diet order and dislikes. Making life easier for dining staff can help retain that staff and cut down on a key challenge for operators.

For more information on this topic, see the webinar below:


March 29, 2018