In the past the dining room in any assisted living facility was considered comparable to a dispensary—a necessary service facility for the residents. Over time, some ALFs dressed them up with dress codes, decorations at holidays, and menus which allowed the residents to choose among two or three entrees. This was a major upgrade from the cafeteria ambience which was popular for residents who came of age in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. The Baby Boomers, however, are used to eating out—a lot. They will expect a full panoply of offerings, and consequently, ALFs are moving in the direction of fuller menus, and in keeping with the fashion of the generation, a more casual atmosphere. Some are even retaining the services of CIA chefs to enhance their dining experience for residents. Because meal time is in many instances the focus of both social life and movement for the residents, it is also the focus of their ire if the food or service is lacking, and Baby Boomers are not known for their patience in this regard. The dining experience can also be used as a marketing tool. A small area can be set aside for prospects who can taste the fare for themselves, and set that ALF apart from others who do not make that experience available. In short, breaking bread in the community is taking on an ever more important role in the future of the ALF.
By: Shawn Rader