We Baby Boomers were the first generation to easily travel. Airplanes, the Interstate system and such allowed us to experience lots of regional and international foods that were not available to the previous generations who are presently the majority in senior communities. As we Baby Boomers retire we will demand more from retirement communities, especially in the area of cuisine. We will demand more than just the traditional sit-down venues. We want our meals faster, with more variety and better quality. And dare I say, more spices?
Getting down to the technology aspects of dining, according to Pew Research 53% of seniors have smartphones and 33% own a tablet. That will likely skyrocket in the coming decade. To take advantage of the convenience that this technology offers, many retirement communities are incorporating these devices into their dining experience and here is why:
- Ease of Use: Residents can use their devices to make reservations, view menus, and order their food in advance.
- Speed: Instead of taking orders with a pad and pencil, the waitstaff use tablets to transmit a request directly to the kitchen. It saves them time from the constant trips back and forth to the kitchen. They can, as a result, help more residents. There are some estimates that up to 20% of the waitstaff time is used simply to place orders in the kitchen.
- Feedback: Residents can provide anonymous feedback on food and service using tablet-enabled kiosks. That drives better service and quality.
These types of technology-driven improvements are making life easier. Some communities are even providing a iPad or other tablet for each resident to use in interfacing with almost all community services. Reservations for transportation and community events are scheduled through these devices. That makes life easier for both residents and staff.
Before I close out this miniseries on retirement community dining, I want to cover a few other loose ends on my list.
- Some communities are partnering with area restaurants to cater meals that residents order directly from them and are delivered to the community dining room or apartment. All these technology-driven options are attracting Baby Boomers to those communities.
- Another simple option is to prevent what is called compression. That is only serving meals during a somewhat limited timeframe. Extending hours of service prevents bottlenecks which waste food, cause customer dissatisfaction, and result in up to 33% higher food costs.
- An easily solved common problem of dining room crowding is to stagger the expiration periods for meal plans so that only a third of them are expiring at any given time. As it is now you simply don’t want to eat in our dining room on the last two days of the month. It is just TOO crowded, and takes too long to get a meal!
In closing, we Baby Boomers will be shaking up the retirement communities that we choose to join, or maybe more importantly, choose to avoid. Those communities that cling to the old ways will not get us as residents. We demand more and better services, especially in the area of dining.
BTW… Something miraculous happened last night in my retirement community. I went down to get my morning coffee and found that numerous pine trees have sprouted throughout the inside of the building.
I suspect they will start sprouting lights and such in the coming days… 🥸