Recent adverse media coverage over a leaked internal memo requesting staff return leftover food to the main kitchen to determine if it can be reused is a good example of how a meal service can go horribly wrong.
Managing risk may avert such situations but a focus on quality delivers a better reward for all stakeholders, particularly residents. Enhancing the dining experience doesn’t always require more investment. It can often just be a matter of shifting resources.
Yield and Productivity
JB Say, the French philosopher, defined an entrepreneur as someone who shifts things from areas of low productivity and yield to areas of higher productivity and greater yield. If meal quality is to be improved, a more entrepreneurial approach is essential.
Right equipment, best value and better planning reflect an entrepreneurial approach to delivering quality meal services. Each can free up resources to invest in a better dining experience but only when the benefits are used to deliver higher productivity and greater yield.
Freeing up resources can include streamlining purchasing, trapping rebates and commissions, understanding the base roster, managing roster variance, redesigning rosters to a critical path, reducing inventory/production/tray/plate waste, portion control and so on.
We understand the tricks of the trade. Not to cut corners but to better meet resident’s needs.
Regulation, compliance and quality
Joe Lederman from FoodLegal highlighted recently that it’s not possible to legislate or write policies and procedures for every conceivable event in the meal service.
However if all stakeholders understand their duty of care and contribute to a quality outcome, regulation and compliance are not a constraint but a building block to a positive dining experience. Especially when meeting the needs of a predominantly vulnerable resident population.
Stakeholder Management and Quality Outcomes
Inadvertently, many of the 40 or so stakeholder groups impacting on meal service processes can constrain or thwart the service and/or quality of meals. Considered and exhaustive stakeholder management is essential.
While 40 sounds like a lot of stakeholder groups, it includes: family, management, the Board, catering, care and cleaning staff, dieticians, speech therapists, other allied health practitioners, regulatory bodies, architects, equipment manufacturers, suppliers, unions and more.
The key is to seek stakeholder commitment to contribute to quality outcomes and a positive dining experience by building cross functional capability while keeping the quality outcome in mind.
For the resident, the ambiance is right and the meal smells good, looks good, tastes good and is nutritious.
The Meal Value Stream
A value stream sees beyond ‘task’ to a ‘quality outcome’. Mapping enables all stakeholders to visualise their contribution and better appreciate the upstream and downstream implications along the value stream – each part of the process from menu planning to food service.
Value stream mapping addresses the risk of a chasm between compliance and a quality customer experience (CX) for the resident by focussing stakeholders on how ‘the whole’ can be greater than the ‘sum of the parts’.
Getting stakeholders to take a value stream approach is just the beginning of a more integrated approach to a better outcome. The maps create discussion on how value can be added, how waste can be minimised and how to improve performance on important measures such as the delay between cooking and serving.
A value stream approach also assists stakeholders identify process improvement and reengineering options. Rather than simply adhering to past practices and accepting constraints, challenging assumptions and continually asking ‘Why” overcomes the tired old irrelevant “This is the way it’s always been done” mantra.
The value stream creates more likelihood stakeholders will embrace changes for improved resident outcomes and change is sustainable.
Outside-In and the Value Stream
Dining Experience Specialists encourage an “outside-in” approach to adding worth along the value stream. This can include better understanding the constraints of regulation and compliance through a lens focussed on better resident outcomes. Time between processes can be a case in point.
Consider the common dilemma of serving eggs. A facility cooks eggs in the main kitchen to regulatory standards, transports the cooked eggs to the dining rooms, hot holds them, plates them and eventually serves them to the resident. In instances of 1.5 hours between cooking and serving, it is very unlikely that the eggs will still look good, taste good and retain their nutritional value for the diners.
Taking an Outside-In approach, how can eggs be served to better meet the needs and desires of residents? One option is to cook the eggs at the location of serving, on demand to residents at their request.
The Customer-Centric Dining Experience
“Too hard”, “can’t do it” are the traditional responses. “Impossible to achieve in every dining room”, “cant do at every meal” are other common causes for rejection. But if residents are to have the reward of cooked eggs which tickle their tastebuds, can it be possible, if only occasionally?
A Chef in the dining room to occasionally cook and serve eggs that look, smell and taste great with minimal delay is possible. If its reliant on more money, it may be less possible.
If its funded by shifting resources from areas of low yield and productivity, the dining experience is enhanced and all stakeholders benefit.
A number of innovative aged care providers have moved beyond the traditional meal service to re-examine constraints to create a positive dining experience. They understood
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.”
They realise the traditional institutional model is no longer good enough. Adverse publicity in other facilities gives them cause to congratulate themselves for a job well done, a higher level of resident satisfaction and increased occupancy.