Ideas to improve your meals at your residential care home

  1. Optimise your Menu

Your residents will probably let you know loud and clear what their favourites are.  What about other less popular dishes? Why do you persist?  Is it corporate policy you must give them so much choice – whether they like it or not?  Why do you have standard menus across multiple facilities when you know there are micro clusters of discerning diners, even between dining rooms in the one facility?

Get creative and consider a macro view of the menu, using designated main ingredients for ease of supply and let individual chefs have some free rein with the intricacies to satisfy their residents.

Developing a menu is complex and incredibly time consuming.  We can think of 14 perspectives to consider.  Email us for what these perspectives are.

The flashest menu can still be murdered by the time the resident takes their first bite.  Refine your processes so that every meal is at its best when the resident is ready to take their first bite, wherever they are, what ever the time of day or night.


  1. Increase staff skills and knowledge of equipment, policies, resources

Do you have magnificent equipment you are not using to capacity? What procedures can you automate?  What programs can you set up on equipment to ensure ease of use and consistency for all users?

Talk to your suppliers for specific training. Even better, ask your supplier to program your equipment for common menu components and meals.  Make sure you explain your process from oven to consumption to ensure the meal is at its optimum when the resident is ready to eat their meal.

Optimise the existing menu by cooking meal components on automated programs.  Oven suppliers have qualified, highly trained chefs waiting for your call.  Automate by programming and storing frequently used processes.  Set a program to cook multiple items at the same time record time, temperature, method.  Your supplier will help.

Do you have any policies that do not add to better quality outcomes for your residents?   Are they still necessary? Can they be combined?  Do you need additional or updated policies?  Eg Social media, quality standards, LGBTI, privacy, collection, Influenza.


  1. Partner with your Food Suppliers

How can your food suppliers leverage your partnership?  Ask them about innovative new products, manufacturers, processes, packaging that will make life easier/better/more interesting.

Ask them how to use products and ingredients to get consistently great results.   They may have a recipe, cooking method, support that will expand staff repertoire and increase variety and interest for diners.

Let them know what you are struggling with so they can pool their collective wisdom and solve the problem for you.  They want to help. They have a ton of resources.  They have their finger on the pulse.  They appreciate your requests.

How is your relationship with your suppliers?  Do they fit your organisational vision and values?  Do they meet your criteria as a preferred supplier (beyond price)?  Do they know what your expectations are?  Are you a good customer?   


  1. Clean out the pantry and check inventory

What dry goods do you have stashed in the pantry that has been sitting around for a while?  Can you pull out opened packets of ingredients and incorporate them into your recipes over the next week or 2?  What about dried fruit? Seasonings? Small quantities of bits and pieces?

Don’t throw them out or wait for them to go out of date.  Be creative and incorporate ingredients into meals, use as a garnish or as a snack item.

Cook half-n-half or even quatro and have one dish with different tastes to meet the needs of your discerning residents.  They are not a homogenous group.  Don’t treat them like they are.


  1. Do a deep and thorough clean

Do you have the knowledge, skills, expertise and time for staff to properly clean and sanitise your kitchen, coolroom and freezer? I mean, pull apart and thoroughly clean shelves, flooring, walls, equipment, filters.  

Ask supplier experts for guidance, checklists and/or their professional service.  Cleaning your cold room by hand will not achieve the results that professional expertise and specialised cleaning equipment can.  

Reduce workplace risk, extend equipment lifespan, maintain compliance and increase peace of mind.

Stop chastising your staff for failing to do specialised work beyond their capability, time limits and resources.


What are your biggest challenge in the kitchen right now?  What has been giving you grief you are still not on top of?  How is the immediate future looking?  What issues are looming that you haven’t solved yet?  What opportunities do you see that excite you?  Share with us. Perhaps we know someone who can help you.

Next week:  Ideas for the Dining Rooms (including room service)

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