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.
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.