10/10/18 - Technology's Role in Today's Dining Environment

Technology is increasingly playing a larger role in today’s senior living dining environment. Technology has long been adopted by other departments, and has more recently become an essential tool in managing dining operations. Foodservice software is no longer a nice to have but rather a must have to remain competitive, flexible and up to date on the latest resident dining expectations.

Electronic Records

First and foremost, technology enables foodservice operations to electronically manage resident dining information and automate resident foodservice records. Tracking and accessing resident information such as likes and dislikes, preferences, allergies, special requests, improves nutrition and increases the satisfaction and wellness of your residents. Additionally, maintaining clear and concise information on diet orders, allergies and adaptive equipment can ensure residents are being offered and served appropriate food items with the proper feeding devices to decrease risk and increase the safety of your resident’s overall dining experience. It’s important to have this information in a centralized location, easily accessible by the staff members that require it to offer a safe and enjoyable dining environment. Applications can even assist you with tracking which staff member updated what information at a specific date and time providing you with a mechanism to audit the information that is being regularly updated.

Tablet/Mobile Device Use

Web-based applications as opposed to server based applications make it easy for staff to access technology remotely and throughout the facility. Web-based applications typically enable users to access functionality from several modern devices such as mobile phones and tablets. By having this level of flexibility, foodservice staff can spend more time out in the facility interacting with residents than behind a computer in an office. Mobile functionality enables staff to access functionality throughout the facility making it simple to obtain resident meal selections in-room or tableside in the dining room. Resident food interviews can be documented directly into the application on a tablet rather than pen and paper and entering the information at a later time. This eliminates an entire step in the interview process which ultimately means more time in front of your residents.

Paperless Implementations

Advanced technology is also lending itself to reduce the amount of paper used by facilities. Many facilities are moving towards paperless implementations in dining rooms. By combining tablet use, wireless technology, and display monitors or smart TVs, facilities can record resident meal selections directly into a tablet, and foodservice operators can view that information on another tablet or display monitor without having to print formal dining tickets. A facility can greatly reduce their paper consumption by eliminating printed dining tickets for breakfast, lunch and dinner for all residents.

Streamlined Workflows

As we look to how technology streamlines staff workflows, technology can have a very positive impact. As already briefly mentioned, the resident food interview process can be made more efficient by recording resident preferences and feedback directly into the application via a tablet rather than manually recording with pen and paper and entering the information into the application at a later time. The process for obtaining resident menu selections via a tablet strengthens communication between the individual obtaining the order and back-of-the-house. Applications can make it very easy to ensure only diet appropriate choices are offered to residents. Technology also automates the generation of several dining reports such as nourishment labels, preference reports, dining/seating assignments and production tallies. This removes the manual aspect of an individual pulling this information together on a routine basis.

Reduction in Errors

And last but certainly not least, technology is a key component in reducing errors in the facility. When you maintain your data electronically and centrally, it reduces errors related to inaccurate, outdated, illegible (if you’re handwriting) and scattered dining information. More importantly, technology can automate several key aspects of the dining experience ensuring residents are not served items they are allergic to or offerings that are not appropriate for the resident’s diet order. Technology arms your staff with the proper tools to direct them through the process of offering choices that are of the correct modification and consistency for their diet order. Utilizing functionality that contains resident images, adds an extra measure of verification that dining staff is speaking with and delivering the plate to the correct resident. This avoids situations where a plate is delivered to the incorrect resident that contains an allergy or is the incorrect consistency causing a choking hazard.

Employee Engagement

So how do all of these key aspects improve employee engagement? Repetitive manual tasks can lead to mentally disengaged employees. By automating those type of tasks, employees have more time to focus on caring for residents. Technology increases flexibility and mobility often leading to heightened staff morale. And employees are more likely to feel that their organization is investing in their development by providing them access to new technology and tools and training them on how to best implement them.

Are you now convinced that technology is critical in delivering an efficient and elite dining program? The next step is to start your search for foodservice automation!

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