High expectations for safe dining

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Leah Larson
Leah Larson

The baby boomer generation has changed the world. Their sheer numbers have made them a powerful force - as children, teens, parents and now grandparents. Today, the 76 million Baby Boomers in the U.S. are beginning to reach retirement age. By 2030, 18% of the U.S. population will be over 65. This generation has had higher expectations for every stage of life -- and, it turns out their dining experiences at senior living communities are no exception. 

Results from a recent Ecolab Inc. survey of 400 Americans involved in selecting senior living communities showed that expectations are high for communities to offer fresh, healthy foods along with convenience. In fact, 85% of respondents ranked quality and variety of food as important. They also said they want specific food and dining options in senior living communities, reminiscent of what might be found in a hotel. For instance, 71% want room service, 66% expect a coffee shop, 78% expect a bakery or fresh baked goods and desserts, and 82% expect a fresh salad bar. About 20% expect senior living communities to offer an on-site pub.

These survey findings suggest that senior living communities should work with business partners and vendors to ensure they are not only offering quality dining options with a variety of food choices, but also providing clean, safe and comfortable dining experiences for their residents, families and staff.

Providing a clean, safe dining experience

A clean kitchen operation is a crucial part of delivering a safe, high-quality dining experience for residents and their families. While the basic needs of a senior living community's food-service operations and a typical full-service restaurant kitchen are the same, senior living communities are more closely regulated and inspected, sometimes dealing with multiple outside agencies. In addition, they serve individuals with compromised immune systems, so having a comprehensive cleaning and sanitizing program is necessary, specifically in the areas of food safety and ware-washing.

Food Safety

Food safety covers a broad range of areas – from storage and preparation, to proper cleaning and sanitizing to hand hygiene of foodservice staff. In all of these areas, it is important to use the right products at the right dilution to be effective, and conduct regular training to help keep residents, visitors and employees safe from foodborne illness and public infection.

Aside from using the right chemistry and cleaning procedures, products such as color-coded cutting boards and labels can help avoid cross-contamination and food spoilage and should be key components of a safe kitchen operation. Also, floor cleaners can help reduce the risk of slips and falls and improve employee safety. Floor products that also sanitize can help prevent cross-contamination in kitchens as food boxes are moved from floors to work surfaces. An integrated kitchen safety program can give you peace of mind that your kitchen is safe for both your staff and residents. 

Leah Larson, director of Long Term Care Marketing for Ecolab's Institutional business, is responsible for understanding the customer and market, developing products and program innovation, and positioning Ecolab as a business partner and thought leader with customers in this industry. She can be reached at leah.larson@ecolab.com.

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