How Technology Enhances Dining Operations in Senior Care Communities

Technology plays a key role in senior care community healthcare, staffing, resident social connections, and more. But it’s also increasingly important in senior care community dining operations. Technology offers many benefits to dining operations, from increased efficiency to creating a superior dining experience, so it’s easy to see why many dining operations embrace it.

Read on to learn the benefits of dining technology and best practices for successfully implementing dining technology in your community.

How Senior Care Communities Use Dining Operation Technology

Sean Rowe_MealSuite_Headshot

Sean Rowe, CEO of MealSuite

Senior care communities incorporate technology into the dining experience in several different ways. Recipe and menu planning software allows for easier personal menu planning. “Using a built-in database of regular, texture-modified and therapeutic recipes that are dietitian-approved, operators can easily plan personal menus complete with live costing and nutritional analysis,” says Sean Rowe, CEO of MealSuite. The software can also make instant last-minute menu updates with no need to reprint menus or duplicate data entry.

Rowe explains that the best systems feature resident profiles that help dining teams track diet orders, allergens, and preferences. “Everything they need to know when it comes to taking orders, preparing a meal for and serving any individual is at their fingertips,” he says. Integration with electronic health records means that diet and allergen updates are made instantaneously, helping to reduce the risk of missing changes.

Technology also allows for optimized buying, which can streamline and integrate the entire purchase process. “Picture your orders automatically generated to match your product preferences, menu requirements and diner profiles,” says Rowe. “Optimized buying can also help maximize group purchasing programs to maximize rebates and value opportunities, often paying for the entire platform.”

Senior care communities are also using tablet and self-ordering solutions. These solutions are capable of taking orders, including personalized selections, and instantly sending tickets to the kitchen. They can be used tableside or bedside, and can take orders instantly or ahead of mealtimes. “Plus, self-service kiosks and in-house mobile ordering apps allow patients, residents and staff to order from anywhere, including grab-and-go options during off-hours,” notes Rowe.

Additionally, paperless kitchen technology digitizes production reports and food safety tracking. Real-time reports and alerts, including safety checklists and temperature monitoring, can support food safety.

The Benefits of Dining Technology

Dining technology benefits senior care communities, residents, and staff in many ways. “Technology can help conquer challenges that come with short staffing with solutions for streamlined operations, self-ordering, and innovations that help attract and retain employees,” says Rowe. “Live menu pricing, reporting & forecasting capabilities help easily plan menus that meet budgets and cut waste.”

Investing in technology with a database of resident profiles can help senior care communities reduce foodservice risks. “Profiles capture unique needs like dietary preferences, allergies, food textures and fluid thicknesses so staff will have all the important details about diners at their fingertips,” Rowe explains.

Point of sale systems can create new revenue streams, which means senior care communities can then reinvest that revenue into the food service experience. “From self-service kiosks that offer prompts for upsells and after-hours transactions to staff ordering programs and capturing visitors’ meals, flexible systems give you so many options to personalize the dining experience while boosting your bottom line,” says Rowe.

Senior care communities can also use technology to create an excellent dining experience. “As the expectations of residents continue to evolve, so too must our approach to delivering exceptional care and service,” explains Rowe. “Technology boosts mealtime satisfaction with the ability to build personal menus, cater to individual tastes, get meals out faster and allowing diners to order and pay anytime, anywhere.”

Steps to Successfully Implementing Dining Technology

Rowe recommends that senior care communities analyze their operations and identify manual efforts that can be streamlined or automated. “For example, how long is it taking you to update and re-print menus if someone has a last-minute diet change? Or how long is it taking you to re-cost menus when the price of an ingredient rises?” he says. “From there, work with your team to do an internal needs analysis and dream up the ideal ‘what ifs’ to look for in a technology partner.”

He notes that the biggest challenge that MealSuite hears from operators is staff technology adoption and change management. Rowe recommends these essential steps in building out an engagement plan:

  • Create an outlined communication strategy. This should explain the overall strategy, both during the initial rollout phase, as well as on an ongoing basis. “Central to this is a compelling ‘What’s in it for me?’ message to all levels of the organization,” says Rowe.
  • Map out content to be added to any software. Rowe notes that mapping out the content is essential in understanding how teams or departments will use the software. “Meaningful content that serves a purpose and/or helps teams become more efficient or remove blockers will increase adoption and build momentum over time,” he says. He recommends conducting feedback sessions with employees during the 30-, 60-, and 90-day periods so you can quickly implement any needed changes.
  • Home in on the “What’s in it for me” message to drive continuous engagement. “Find early adopters, make them champions of the platform, motivate them to share their experience with laggers as to why they are promoting usage – this will create an adoption movement within the organization,” Rowe recommends. Usage analytics can help build excitement and motivation, and communities can even turn usage into a friendly competition among staff.

Rowe recommends having an executive sponsor drive software adaptation. “In fact, management support at all levels within the organization will ensure the software launch and use of the platform gets the attention it needs to be successful,” he explains. Getting C-suite, food services directors or managers, nutrition staff, nurses, and support workers involved can help build support for the software.

Senior care communities looking for additional support can access complimentary resources to build an implementation plan, including a software vendor due-diligence checklist, an engagement plan template, and a dashboard to show success on MealSuite’s website.

Rowe is optimistic about residents embracing new dining technology, too. “While hesitation is still a reality, residents are continuing to become more technologically savvy and expect the flexible lifestyle technology can bring,” he says.

He recommends that senior care communities inform residents about how technology will benefit them, such as by increasing service speeds and quality, making it easier for them to manage their payments, and giving them more options in ordering meals at their convenience. Choosing a senior-friendly technology solution, incentivizing its use with discounts and extra options, and forming a resident technology committee can all help support residents during the technology adaptation.

“Artificial intelligence is set to change the way we work and serve our staff, residents and patients,” says Rowe. “Having foundational systems that track your procurement, menus, recipes, diner profiles and more will set you up for success and unlock potential before you know it!”

Topics: Facility management , Featured Articles , General Technology , Information Technology , Nutrition , Operations