It’s a New Normal for Healthcare and Senior Living

Foodservice must adapt as care communities reopen to a lingering pandemic.
Healthcare worker delivering plate of food

The spread of COVID-19 has slowed enough that healthcare and senior living operations are resuming some routine practices. Foodservice is among the areas adjusting to what’s next. The challenge is maintaining safety while providing high-quality, nutritionally sound and delicious meals.

As they comply with regulations, foodservice managers are examining daily operations and service points, applying best practices to four primary areas:

1. Menu planning

The menu comes first because it affects many other decisions, such as equipment needs, new procedures, staffing levels and training. Facing possible staff size and food availability limitations, consider:

  • Focusing on menu item guests enjoy most while streamlining variety
  • Keeping the menu flexible to account for shortages
  • Adjusting or eliminating “cook-to-order” options
  • Trying grab-and-go menu options

2. Back-of-house procedures

Kitchens have close quarters and a lot of moving parts. Operating safely and efficiently is more important than ever.

  • Increase frequency of cleaning and sanitizing
  • Restrict staff allowed in the kitchen (i.e., separate culinary from servers)
  • Set up a delivery cart disinfecting and sanitizing area

3. Front-of-house procedures

Follow the rules established by health experts and government officials when reopening dining areas.

  • Communal dining
    • Redesign seating to comply with social distancing and occupancy rules
    • Use a pre-order system to minimize the time guests spend in the dining area
    • Screen guests before they enter the dining area
  • Self-service areas (if allowed, and you choose to keep self-service open)
  • Assure sneeze guards are in place
  • Assign a team member to dish out food
  • Enforce using clean dishes on return visits
  • In-room dining
    • Use a minimum-contact process to take meal orders
    • Use portable carts with warming/cooling chambers to transport meals
    • Allow nursing staff to deliver meals and retrieve trays from COVID-19 care rooms
  • Retail
    • Remove tables and chairs and use signs for traffic flow
    • Offer mobile ordering order-ahead process
    • Use plexiglass barriers at checkout and offer touchless payment

4. Employee safety

Now is the time to promote safety to prevent team members from risking their health and your ability to provide service to patients and residents.

  • Screen employees before a shift according to your health policy
  • Send them home if they exhibit or report symptoms. Follow the Centers for Disease Control’s return to work policy for their return
  • Reinforce personal hygiene and hand-washing policies

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