Elevating the dining experience at Simpson communities

Dining at Simpson Senior Living Communities – Assisted Living Dining

One of the many great advantages of living in a retirement community is not having to plan meals or cook. It’s also a good reason to consider what comes out of the kitchen when you choose where you’re going to live. In recognition of the importance of food to all facets of our well-being, Simpson brought Sodexo on board to handle dining services at all its senior living communities and charged them with bringing and maintaining a high level of authentic service, listening to residents and ensuring resident engagement.

“Authentic service means recognizing that residents—our guests—are the reason we’re here. It means knowing the food you’re serving. It means staying in the moment, not talking to other staff members in front of guests, and providing food when, where and how guests want it,” says Gregory Blumenthal, district manager, Sodexo Seniors, for greater Philadelphia.

Starting with a simple meal: Thanksgiving

The Simpson Sodexo team began providing dining services at Simpson one week before Thanksgiving 2021. Talk about pressure!

“We needed to make a great impression right away by creating a memorable Thanksgiving for guests and their families,” says Racheal Palumbo, a Sodexo area general manager who is focused on the Simpson communities.

Thanksgiving was a success. One Simpson resident had commented that she’d love to see macaroni & cheese at Thanksgiving, but didn’t think it would be possible. The Simpson Sodexo team listened and served mac & cheese as part of that community’s Thanksgiving meal. The resident was astonished. Palumbo credits the in-house teams and their regular “huddles.” The Simpson Sodexo team also introduced a reservation system at two of the communities and opened up additional dining venues to accommodate more people during the holiday events. Guests knew when and where to expect their meals.

At each Simpson senior living community, Sodexo has a team that includes a general manager, an executive chef, one or two operations managers and clinical staff, such as registered dietitians. Palumbo supports the onsite teams with all dining initiatives. The teams have successfully implemented innovation event calendars with themed menus, like “A Night in Paris” at Jenner’s Pond during Valentine’s Day or the recent Mardi Gras events at all three communities. “These events highlight the chef’s skills and creativity while letting the residents experience an authentic meal, like they were actually visiting Paris,” says Douglas Flasher, Simpson’s Chief Operating Officer.

They also have pop up events, like popcorn day, chef demonstrations, or talks about health and nutrition. And Simpson residents have input into the menus as well. The Sodexo General Manager meets monthly with the Dining Enhancement Committee or the Resident Council. Residents can also use the new “Happy or Not” touchscreen kiosks in each dining area to provide feedback on each meal.

Bringing technology to meal time

The kiosks aren’t the only high-tech touch. Sodexo’s DRIVE software captures and analyzes information like what menu items were offered, how much food was used, how many guests were served, etc. This data helps the company understand food preferences at each community.

Sodexo’s Bite App – Assisted Living Menu Software and Senior Living Meal Tracker
Residents can download Sodexo’s Bite app to browse upcoming menus and dive into nutrition information for specific dishes and get wellness tips. They can also filter the menu based on special dietary needs and provide feedback on menu choices. For residents who use Fitbits, the app integrates with their tracking devices. Coming this Spring, Meal Tracker from the MatrixCare CRM system will be implemented to capture food preferences, restrictions and nutritional needs of residents in higher levels of care. Instead of using printed menus, dining associates will record guests’ orders on tablets and will be alerted if the person makes a choice that contains an allergen or other restricted food.

Growing food can be good for soul, too, so another high-tech initiative planned for later this year is also high-touch. Farmshelf hydroponic grow systems—about the size of a bookshelf—will provide a source of fresh greens and herbs all year round and give interested residents an opportunity to be involved. And because gathering around food—or a cup of coffee—brings people together, Sodexo is introducing a premium coffee experience at Jenner’s Pond with a Serenade brewer that will enable guests to choose a variety of different coffees, including iced coffee, at the touch of a button.

Farmshelf Hydroponic Grow Systems for Fresh Senior Living Dining – Fresh Assisted Living Meals

But what about the food?

Sodexo invests a lot in training its people to uphold high standards of customer service. But the warmest smiles in the world can’t make up for a kitchen that can’t deliver. Sodexo can. The company starts by sourcing local produce whenever possible, purchasing from local farms during harvest season. They have involved residents in taste tests to provide input when selecting products like coffee and ice cream. The company offers a wide variety of fresh, seasonal recipes, cooked from scratch, as well as special portfolios like Mindful by Sodexo for those who appreciate fresh, simple ingredients. Sodexo is particular about its recipes and ingredients—and even more so about its chefs. They have an intensive interview process that explores more than cooking ability. The company probes leadership skills, business understanding and creativity, and then asks candidates to prepare a meal in 90 minutes given a basket of ingredients, a la Top Chef competitions. “They create, plate and present the meal for people on site to taste before we make a decision,” Palumbo says. Sodexo interviewed candidates for Jenner’s Pond and Simpson House. Who were the winners? Andrew Conant is the new executive chef at Jenner’s Pond. He earned a degree in culinary arts from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and gained experience in a private restaurant before coming to Jenner’s Pond, where he had been sous chef. He has extensive experience in a la carte dining. At Simpson House, Scott McMaster, who graduated from the Art Institute of Philadelphia with a degree in the culinary arts, is now executive chef and Eugene Howard, who has been with Sodexo for over 20 years is the current executive chef at Simpson Meadows. With experienced, well-trained people; a focus on fresh food and menus offering proven recipes based on feedback from guests; and taking advantage of a variety of new technologies, the Sodexo Simpson Team has all the ingredients in place to deliver a great dining experience at Simpson’s senior living communities. Bon appetit!
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