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Kind Dining Connection: Bringing Warmth to the Table

Best Practices

The New Family Table

Fostering Community in the Dining Room

I recently spoke with a resident in a senior care community who described her on-going sense of being "the odd man out" in the dining room. Why? Because all the tables were set with even numbers of place settings. A single person, she felt discouraged trying to choose a place to sit—even when there was no one else at the table. She was constantly being reminded of her singleness.

How well is your dining environment prepared to meet residents' needs for belonging and community? At the table, inclusiveness is key. Residents may be feeling a sense of isolation, perhaps missing lost loved ones, especially on holidays and important personal milestones, such as birthdays and anniversaries. How well is your organization bringing people together?

The dining experience is a natural place to transform neighbors into friends, but residents must first feel comfortable and welcome.

One solution is the community table.
Often, dining rooms are set up to accommodate large numbers of residents and tables are set for two, four, six or eight people. Adding one long table to the dining room, or pushing two or three tables together, without pre-arranged place settings, may be a good start. In Europe, community tables are often found in restaurants. Singles and small groups of friends join together to eat with strangers. This model is even catching on in U.S. restaurants. Consider adopting this solution to support single residents in your dining room. 

Encouraging social activity helps too.
Invite your mid-morning coffee group or afternoon rummy players to use the new community table. Or team with the Activity Director to have residents create decorations for the dining environment. Group involvement helps single residents feel a sense of belonging.

Finally, remember servers are key to creating an atmosphere of community.
Have servers make a special effort to engage with newer residents, or those who tend to have trouble starting conversations for themselves. Make sure your staff seeks out single diners, inviting them to share stories with the larger group.

Conversation starters can be very simple. If there's an upcoming activity or event, have servers ask residents if they plan to attend. Or inquire about residents' pets and favorite hobbies. Encourage servers to come up with things residents have in common and test them out as conversation starters at the table.

Serving staff have a unique opportunity to model bringing warmth to one another in this environment. Most residents become attached to staff, whom they see more often than family. In this way, servers can help you exceed the updated Quality Initiative Survey (QIS) process service expectations and proposed New Dining Practice Standards. These recommendations mandate we meet higher standards of service quality, based in better relationships among all stakeholders. With the skills to connect people, servers can create an atmosphere of community—truly making your dining room home to the new family table.
Be Kind, Be Courteous, Be ServiceSmart

Take Time to B♥ Kind

"May I never get too busy in my own affairs that I fail to respond to the needs of others with kindness and compassion."
~ Thomas Jefferson

The dining room can be a hectic place, especially during mealtimes. As you race back and forth delivering meals, trying to remember several things at once, it is all too easy to forget the most important task at hand: giving B♥ Kind service.

You have a challenging job. But, as dining staff, you play an important role in your community. Sometimes, giving a few extra seconds of your time can make a big difference for another person.

Is a new community member arriving in your dining room today? Welcome him or her personally and make introductions to table-mates. Has someone lost a loved one recently? Remember that person's emotions may be fragile. Speak gently and be respectful if he or she wants to sit in a different place or has a small appetite. Does a resident seem to be having a hard day? Try saying, "Hello, it's nice to see you today!" Perhaps you'll be the bright spot that makes their day better.
Table Tip

Winter Wonderland Table Decor

Bring some sparkle to your winter table: It's easy with glittery baubles and colored glass. Assemble a collection of small colored glass dishes, plates, glasses, and vases. Fill them with sparkling white and silver ornaments. Place glittery plastic snowflakes, stars, and beads on the table with an arrangement of bauble-filled bowls on top. If you like, add a few sprigs of winter greenery or twigs sprayed with white glitter paint.

Blue, silver and white combinations are a classic choice this time of year, but not the only option. Try livening up dark winter months with purple, white and silver. Or go for an icy look by using clear glass dishes.

Whichever color combination you choose, diners are sure to enjoy this glamorous celebration of winter.
Cindy Heilman, Founder, CEO

Happy New Year

Hope 2012 is your best year ever! Now that everyone is back from the holidays, I invite you to share with each other the successes your team achieved during the holidays and renew your resolutions to provide a superb dining experience for the people you serve.

At Higher Standards, we're getting ready for the launch of my new book, Hospitality for Boomers: How to attract residents, retain staff, and maximize profitability. It's just about ready to go to the printer and I'm excited to share it with you. Watch my blog, Facebook page, or LinkedIn for a peek at the contents and announcements about its availability.

Hospitality for Boomers

And, as always, if I can be of service to you in bringing warmth to the table, please call me or e-mail any time.

Kind Regards,

Cindy Heilman, MS, DTR

Higher Standards, LLC

Kind Dining Success Story

A Frienship Rekindled

Villa Crest's new restaurant, Choices, wins again! In the last newsletter I told you about Villa Crest Nursing and Retirement Center winning the Optima Award after introducing restaurant style dining. I have an update from Villa Crest Administrator Sarah McEvoy, who says interaction in the Villa Crest dining room has improved dramatically.

Most heartwarming, two couples have started dining out together at Choices on a regular basis. It turns out the couples knew each other years ago when they all lived in Manchester. They were delighted to rediscover and rekindle their friendship at Villa Crest. Now that's a true win!

Do you have a success story to share? I'd love to hear about it and possibly publish it in an upcoming edition of Kind Dining® Connection. E-mail me the details today.

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Additional Resources

Kind Dining Blog
More best practices for your community dining room

Long-Term Living Magazine
Assisted-living and nursing home senior care environment news and information
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