Aged care residents often complain about their meal because it isn’t hot enough when they receive it. Taking a customer-centric approach to the meal service can ensure they receive a hot meal and satisfies their inner critic.
Over a year, a resident in an aged care facility is served up to 1,095 hot meals. How many of these meals are presented to them hot without being murdered?
In a recent Meal Service Review report for a client, I wrote that while sharing meals with the residents in their dining rooms over a week, a frequent comment was they received their meal not as hot as they would like. The manager noted this and said he would check the temperature logs at the dining rooms.
While temperature logs tick the regulatory requirement box, they do not necessarily reflect the temperature of the meal handed to the resident to eat. A beautifully prepared meal can be ruined if it is presented lukewarm.
Assistance with their meal
I also reflect on those requiring assistance to eat their meal. In some cases, the meal is texture modified and presented in a plastic bowl. I have seen many instances where their meals are dished up prior to the dining service, awaiting delivery by care staff who will also assist residents as and when necessary. I have seen instances of 45 minutes between dishing up and access to their meal by the resident. What state is the meal in by this time?
When presented with an unappetising lukewarm meal, residents have the option of asking for an alternative in the form of a salad, sandwich or other option. This then requires more labour and staff diverted away from the dining service. I have seen kitchens that prepare a number of spare salads and sandwiches “just in case” and these are dutifully made every day. Some days, up to 40% of meals are alternatives to the main menu, according to kitchen staff.
Protected meal time
Reports of consistently good experiences by residents include where the meal time is “protected” and staff take an “all hands on deck” approach. Meals are delivered quickly, staff collect a freshly plated texture modified meal and immediately assist those that require it. Nutritional intake is monitored in an unobtrusive way. Residents feel their view is being heard and issues are resolved on the spot. Root causes are established before small issues flare into formal complaints.
A customer-centric organisation will start with the end in mind – delivering a hot and tasty meal to the resident. They will find a way to do this, taking into account facility layout, equipment, dining room locations, staffing, menu, texture modification, enabling technology and ability of the resident to eat the meal.
Consistently hot delivered meals brings massive value and means happy contented residents. It also means less waste as fewer order alternatives to the main menu.