United Active Living has created a new dining experience leader position in its two Calgary communities to enhance the dining experience for residents and their guests throughout the day. United has always had a flexible dining philosophy – eat what you want, with whom you want and whenever you want. There is no assigned seating and the kitchen is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The implementation of this new position raises the dining experience to a new level.
“The dining experience is very important in an older adult community,” said Ryan Bourquin, food and beverage manager. “That’s why we have such flexibility, but we’ve always wanted to add a front manager position – similar to a maitre ‘d position in any fine restaurant – who is essentially the head waiter, and who manages the service staff. The new position complements the chef’s position in each community. In this way, we will be able to ensure an even better experience for residents and their guests.”
The two dining experience leaders have long experience with United. They know the residents by name and are familiar with many of their preferences. By removing them from serving duties, they have more time to talk with residents and work with the servers. As well, the leaders will be involved in redecorating and redesigning the dining areas in each community. They attend financial meetings and new resident transition meetings, plus weekly wellness committee meetings where any significant changes in residents’ eating habits are relayed to every department in case the change might signal a general health issue that might need to be explored with the resident or family.
“I will often check with residents during meal times to be sure they are happy with the food and to ensure they get the best service possible,” said Jeanette Padilla, dining experience leader, Fish Creek. “The servers get to know each resident, and their food and seating preferences. Staff training is part of my responsibilities. While servers might have experience in restaurants, they may not have experience serving older customers, or residents with dementia, so I ensure the servers are trained to serve all residents with respect and patience.”
Violeta Cacho is the dining experience leader at Garrison Green. “It has always been my goal to provide exceptional food and service to residents and their families. I see that everybody works as a team and that residents are served with respect, much like you would find in a high-end restaurant.”
Ryan says one of the main responsibilities of the dining experience leaders is to be accessible to residents. Should a question or issue arise, the leaders are there to answer questions or resolve issues immediately. “Our flexible dining schedule also creates complexity. For instance, residents may wish to have family or friends join them at dinner. The dining experience leader will let the kitchen know that family members are coming in, and will ensure that seating is arranged to accommodate them. The leader position greatly improves communication. So far, the new positions have been well received by residents.”
“My wife and I chose Fish Creek because of the flexible dining options,” said Con Irving, who also sits on the resident council’s food committee. “As a former senior server, Jeanette really knows the job and how to talk with people. She’s the right person for the job. She watches for people coming in, and can move the servers around to accommodate them. The goal is to provide the best service possible. The dining experience leaders listen to the residents and promote communication. That’s so important.”
Photos and video by Sherana Productions.
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To learn more about life at United’s Fish Creek community, watch this short video.