Brought to you by Higher Standards: a passion for hospitality

Table of Contents

Letter from Cindy
The Bottom Line for Employees
Reflections on My Future Role as a Registered Dietician
Hospitality for Boomers Hot off the Presses
Long-Term Living Magazine Wins Big
Improving Mechanical Food: Where to Start
Deliver Tasty Service 
High Quality Highlights
Table Tip: Gardener's Delight
Oregon Adopting 2009 FDA Food Code

Workplace Culture

The Bottom Line for Employees

Studies show meaning more important than money

Bottom Line for Employees
In the Harvard Business Review’s recent article, “What Great Companies Know About Culture,” a core message is conveyed: “Those companies who are committed to a strong workplace culture tend to perform well.” A strong workplace culture is proven to improve the balance sheet for its company by 20-30%.
The balance sheet may be the bottom line for company owners, but research shows the bottom line for employees is something else. According to the Harvard Business Review article, employees in top-ranked companies are most motivated by career development opportunities and “brand mission,” a sense of identity and purpose within the organization.
Senior living communities may not be able to offer all their employees the perks of top-ranked companies (health insurance, family leave, flex time, childcare, etc.), and they may not be able to pay frontline employees more than minimum wage. Low pay is one reason retention rates are historically low in long-term care. However, workplace culture—which top companies rank as the most influential aspect (80%) of daily operations—can be created and sustained for very little money.
In my experience working in senior living communities, I have seen what happens when employees find meaning in their work. I recall a teenage kitchen worker who was just looking for work and happened to get a job in a nursing home. His focus was all about the money.  However, after working there for a while, he reported that, “The residents just grow on you, and you realize you can help them just by being present and nice. You realize many don't have family. It makes me miss the family members I have lost, and this way I can give back.” He had a new sense of purpose and connection that motivated him to improve service…and to stay with the company regardless of his minimal wages.
Our responsibility as leaders is to create a workplace culture that helps employees find meaning in what they do. We can show employees that we value them in concrete ways that have nothing to do with their paychecks. Training them in communication skills is an ideal place to start. This is the kind of career development opportunity that motivates employees. Giving them tools to help them relate with residents, administrators and each other is an investment in community that creates meaning and value for all stakeholders.


Reflections on My Future Role of Registered Dietitian

by Lauren Roberts, Dietetic Intern

Lauren Roberts
As part of my supervised practice during my Dietetic Internship through Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), I had the opportunity to attend Cindy Heilman’s, Kind Dining® Workshop. It was here I started re-thinking my future role as a Registered Dietitian (RD). As the marketplace of senior living communities evolves and expectations rise, so should the role of the RD.
Historically, RDs have been given the negative label of “The Food Police.” Clinicians have been known to readily order diet restrictions and administer nutritional supplements when residents begin to lose weight. From my observations with residents, and through discussions in the Kind Dining® Workshop, I found these diagnosis-focused orders limit the resident’s choice and can be emotionally challenging for many elders—even reducing their appetite. I am not suggesting that RDs never advise diet restrictions or use supplements when medically necessary, but this should be our last line of defense.
The New Dining Practice Standards also supports the idea that diet modifications should be ordered as a last resort. Page 33 says: “Involving individuals in choices about food and dining such as food selections, dining locations, and meal times, can help them maintain a sense of dignity, control and autonomy.”

The standards later suggest providing residents with choice not only maintains their dignity, but can save money: "Historically, it has been shown that giving people foods they like to eat minimizes the use of supplements and can reduce costs." For example, Eric and Margie Haider, administrator and director of nursing at Crestview Nursing Home in Missouri, espoused in 2001, that by giving people foods they like to eat, you can minimize the use of supplements. They calculated a savings of $1,164.00 per month by serving real foods residents wanted to eat. Listening to residents' preferences pays off.
During Kind Dining® Workshop activities, we took a deeper look at what it would feel like to be a resident. It became evident to me that residents desire and expect great customer service and choice.  As an intern who is about to enter this marketplace, I plan to meet resident’s expectations as best I can. Thank you, Cindy, for providing me with ways to meet needs and keep up with this evolving industry.

About the Author: Lauren Roberts is a Dietetic Intern at OHSU. She graduates in June.

Best Practices

High Quality Highlights

by Vera Bartasavich, BA, DTR

Vera Bartasavich, BA, DTR
To ensure customers are safe and satisfied, high quality is critical to any organization handling food. I have worked in food manufacturing most of my 30-year career and believe the "rules" below apply to all organizations. To see what I mean, substitute your organization where each statements reads "food manufacturer." I think you'll agree; these rules apply to us all.
  • A food manufacturer expects high quality from food suppliers at the best possible price.
  • A food manufacturer must provide a high quality product to their customers, because this is the customers' expectation.
  • A food manufacturer must have a well trained staff to produce only the safest high quality food.
  • A food manufacturer must have policies and procedures to ensure products are produced that are high quality.
  • A food manufacturer must provide high quality consistently.
  • A food manufacturer must adhere to government regulations that keep the customer safe and well-informed.
  • A food manufacturer must ask a fair price for their product as there is high competition for customers.
  • A food manufacturer must make a profit to satisfy their investors and to stay in business.
  • A food manufacturer must juggle all of the above in order to protect their reputation, protect and satisfy their customer, make a profit, and continue to thrive.
About the Author: Vera Bartasavich, BA, DTR, is Nutrition Coordinator at Nestle USA. She recently received the 2012 Ohio Dietetic Technician of the Year award. She serves as At-Large Delegate for Dietetic Technicians in the House of Delegates (HOD) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).

Best Practices

Improving Mechanical Food: Where to Start

by Mark Dougherty, BS, CDM, CFPP

Mechanical Food Art
While researching our book, Janelle and I have talked to many Dietary Managers and Cooks. Their response is frequently “great idea, but I don’t have the time for that.” As we all find ways to reduce our labor budget, as we struggle to find time to complete simple cleaning tasks, how can we expect our staff to add reshaping to their plate?

Walking through my dining room and watching residents enjoy their mechanical soft meals, I appreciate their feeling of satisfaction. I think, "How can we not take the extra effort to make our mechanically altered diets look more appealing?"

Start by implementing two simple rules:
  1. Mechanical meats must be moist (add a little broth or a bit of gravy). Use a 1/8" to 1/4” particle size.  
  2. Leave whole all vegetables that can be over-steamed to “fork mashable.”
This is how it all begins in the kitchen. These simple rules create consistency and allow for the base of our next step in the program:Mark Dougherty
Take the scoop of meat and, using a spatula, shape it slightly to something that doesn’t look like a scoop.

My goal is to make cooks confident and comfortable with experimenting and playing with shaping the food, thinking about where they can make the presentation look fun and new. Developing these skills with consistency will save time and empower them to take ownership and more pride in their work as they experience the resident satisfaction I described above.

About the Authors: Janelle Asai, RD, LD and Mark Dougherty, BS, CDM, CFPP are working to revolutionize the presentation of mechanically altered meals. Send your comments or questions to or chat with them on their Facebook page: Mechanical Food Art LLC.
Cindy Heilman
In addition to presenting Kind Dining® Training at senior living communities across the country, I enjoy mentoring people and volunteer as a co-preceptor for OHSU dietetic interns and served for 2 years as At-Large Delegate for Dietetic Tehcnicians in the House of Delegates for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Through this work, I've had the honor of mentoring two of this issue's contributing authors, Lauren Roberts and Vera Bartasavich, DTR.

When I decided to use this issue to highlight viewpoints from across the spectrum of the food and nutrition industry, Lauren and Vera were a natural fit to help me share different aspects of how to attain higher standards in your community's dining room.

In addition, mechanical food artists Janelle Asai and Mark Dougherty are back this month discussing how to implement their ideas for making mechanical soft diets more appealing.

I hope you enjoy their perspective and insights.

As always, if I can be of service as you improve the dining experience in your community, please call me or e-mail any time.

Kind Regards,

Cindy Heilman, MS, DTR

Higher Standards, LLC

Hospitality for Boomers Hot off the Presses

Hospitality for Boomers
My new book, Hospitality for Boomers: How to attract residents, retain staff, and maximize profitability is in stock. This quick read shares a unique service perspective and is full of hospitality tips.

Order copies for your staff today and save 15% off regular pricing: $22.95 $19.51 + s&h.
Long-Term Living Magazine Logo
Long-Term Living (LTL) Magazine has just received FOUR national awards—more than any other magazine serving long-term care and senior living! Congratulations to all the folks at LTL for being recognized by American Society of Healthcare Publication Editors and receiving a:

Gold Award for Best Online News Coverage
Silver Award for Best Special Supplement
Silver Award for Best Profile
Bronze Award for Best E-Newsletter

Get the details at, and while you're there, check out my latest LTL article: What is Your Mission?
Be Kind Tip
Deliver Tasty Service

Deliver Tasty Service

"The taste of the roast is often determined by the welcome of the host."
Ben Franklin

In a room full of people, no one should ever feel alone. Dining staff has a very important role to play in delivering, not just meals, but hospitality and community connection.

Serve meals with an attitude of kindness, warmth and generosity to help your residents feel special and well cared for. Good service can save a bad meal, but a good meal cannot save bad service.
Remember, you are the face of your organization. Residents' opinions of the entire organization is highly influenced by how you act and treat them (and each other).
Table Tip

Gardeners' Delight

A nod to the green thumbs among us!
Silk blooms, a few packets of seeds, a small watering can, and some toy-sized gardening tools are all you need to create this sunny early-summer centerpiece. For a more formal look throughout the dining room, use the same colors on each table. Or, mix things up with a different color scheme on each table.

Of course silk flowers aren't the only option. If you have a gardening club, ask them if they can lend you some tomato starts or fragrant herbs to place in the watering can. The scent of the fresh leaves will spark memories of gardens past and serve as a conversation starter about favorite crops and summer treats fresh from the garden.
Oregon Health Authority Logo

Oregon Adopting 2009 FDA Food Code

The Foodborne Illness Prevention Program is reviewing and updating statewide standards: They plan to adopt the 2009 FDA standards. The state anticipates the new rules will be in effect July 1, 2012. Get information about the changes and how they will affect you at the Oregon Health Authority website. LeadingAge™ Oregon is presenting a New Food Sanitation Rules webinar May 31st. Administrators and food service directors will find this webinar useful to understand how the new rules differ from the old.
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