RetComLife #17 – Other Choices In Food Services

One thing that annoys me is that the sit-down dining option which is basically the only option aside from after the meal carry-outs in my retirement community wastes too much of my time. Having a full-service sit down dining is nice once in a while in that special restaurant, but you wouldn’t appreciate it for every meal you eat.

I know many think we retirement community residents have nothing but time, so what’s the big deal. But if the retirement community is doing its job you have more options for your time now than have actual time to fill them. That twenty or thirty minutes it takes ordering and waiting for each meal to arrive is valuable for me. I want other, less time-consuming options, for my daily food intake. It would be great if my retirement community had a food court like the mall about a mile away. But that just wouldn’t be economically feasible, or would it? Let’s get on to some other options.

For this post, I want to give you a link to an excellent article on the topic. It is entitled 5 Trends in Senior Living Foodservice. Click HERE to read the entire article. Instead of rehashing the words, I am selected quotes from the article.

Multiple Dining Venues

“The biggest trend we’ve seen over the past decade is a move to provide a variety of dining venues,” … “In the old days, the typical facility would have one big, barn-like dining room, which, more often than not, was just called ‘the main dining room.’ Everyone would show up at 5:05p.m. and eat from a set menu with limited choices.

In contrast, modern facilities, whether new builds or remodels, typically now include at least three main types of venues: full-service/fine dining, fast-casual bistro and pub. Marketplaces with a variety of action stations and coffee bars are also hitting the senior dining segment in a big way, giving residents foodservice choices that mirror those they’re used to frequenting in the broader foodservice industry.

“All new-builds do this now, but even older facilities with the traditional one main dining room are breaking that down,” Ader says. “They’re converting those big rooms into multiple venues. They’re putting the kitchen in the middle and keeping it open, and creating different dining experiences around it, from fast casual to full service. If they can’t do that, they’re at least creating different experiences at each meal period.

Coming back to my comments, size of course has a something to do with how many dining options are available. Retirement communities are expensive, ranging from $1,500 to $6,000 per month. My retirement community is right in the middle of that range. How much can they afford to change their dining options? Or maybe the real question is how much will the competition force them to change. I think my community is up to leading this paradigm shift, or I wouldn’t be living here. If they are not, maybe I won’t be here as long as I think.

Next week I will be covering how technology is changing the dining services across most retirement communities and giving us Baby Boomers, who will soon be flooding retirement communities, more options that we demand. The sooner existing communities jump the more likely they will survive the coming times.

2 thoughts on “RetComLife #17 – Other Choices In Food Services

  1. I have dealt with assisted living and nursing homes since 2014. This is what I have observed. All of the ones I dealt with had about 100 to 120 residents. They were all pay by the month. Typical rate was $4K-6K mo. Staff was always tight in every one. They are not going to add staff to provide more food options. Profit margins are slim and this has led to constant consolidation. When a buyout did happen to a facility you were already in the food did not get better. The big guys are buying up the smaller units. The residents are not here by choice. There is some rotation from one to another but no one goes back to an individual home. You are correct that Boomers are flooding these businesses. This is creating a shortage. They cannot find enough low wage employees and it will get worse.
    Where I think you will find what you are looking for is the mega units. These typically have several thousand residents. They have the scale to offer multiple restaurants and they do. Unfortunately the ones near me in this category require you to buy in for $300-400K. There are also very high monthly charges. If someone can figure out how the smaller units can offer more selection for less money then it may happen. Until then I think the amount one pays will be the decision maker.


    1. Thanks for your input, Fred. Yes, the typical assisted living/nursing homes are on a tight budget due to having most of their residence end up on Medicaid. At the beginning of this series I tried to make it absolutely clear that is not what this series is about. Maybe I should point that out more frequently as this series progresses.

      It is about independent living communities where seniors choose to go to free themselves of maintaining a residence. The people in these communities are there by choice, not by health status, or financial need. For the most part, maybe all, they pay 100% of the cost. Click the “HERE” button in the post text to see more about that.

      Due to my ignorance, my wife was forced to spend three weeks in a county nursing home. She hated it and made me promise that she would not die there. With some study, I managed to find a reputable retirement community hospice program for her final days on this earth. After she died I liked it so well, even despite the pandemic stuff, I decided to stay here. I am in my 5th month now and consider it my home.


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