Improving dining environments increases resident satisfaction

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PJ Dempsey
PJ Dempsey

Study after study shows the trend:  the dining environment in senior living communities is a major factor in resident satisfaction. Residents and families who are satisfied with their mealtime experience are shown to be more satisfied with the organization overall, and therefore more likely to recommend their community to others. Moreover, high standards in the dining room help meet residents' need to be respected and nurtured, increase resident and staff retention, bring in more new customers, reduce overall expenses, and maximize profitability.

So what kind of changes should assisted living facility directors and managers make in light of these findings? 

Facilities that would like to improve food quality and service perception should strongly consider using commercially supplied cloth napkins. Here's why: A recent U.S. restaurant consumer study commissioned by Milliken & Company, a leading manufacturer of table linen fabrics for the hospitality industry (and a supplier to Dempsey Uniform & Linen Supply), found that U.S. consumers overall highly associate cloth napery with better food quality, better service, better restaurant appearance and ambiance. The study summary can be found on the Milliken website: www.millikentablelinens.com.

These study findings are consistent with other research showing that resident and prospects' expectations of an upscale senior living facility dining experience are greatly influenced by their prior experiences in hotels, restaurants, country clubs and the resort and cruise industry, where table settings feature quality cloth napkins and table covers.

In particular, baby boomers are shopping upscale senior living communities for their parents and themselves, with an emphasis on senior living communities that embrace attitudes of genuine hospitality. And what boomers want, they usually get. In order to meet this demand, many senior communities are going upscale in terms of environment and services. Assisted living amenities increasingly include beauty salons, spas, indoor swimming pools and beautifully appointed dining rooms with crisp table linens and restaurant-like dining experiences featuring solicitous waitstaff and diverse cuisine, appealing to people's desire for menu choice and variety.  

These standards become choice influencers in resident and prospects' senior living facility preferences. Assisted living managers can ensure perceptions of prospective residents as having a more sanitary, upscale, higher quality, stylish facility that reflects a higher-quality of life and avoid shabby, stained, and tattered linens that reflect a poor, run-down looking dining room and poorly managed facility. 

Other benefits of commercial laundry include:

  • Safety and cleanliness — In-house facilities do not have the commercial grade laundry equipment and advanced detergents needed to get out stains like lipstick and food dyes.  Plus, it is easier for an in-house laundry to clean lightly soiled room linens or patient clothes when the equipment is not also used for heavily soiled table linens and kitchen towels.
  • Cost effective and efficient — In-house laundering contributes to heavy wear and tear on facility-owned table linens, causing frequent re-purchasing expenses. Also, using a commercial linen service frees up facility staff is needed to process linens in-house, so  personnel can be assigned elsewhere. With a commercial service, there is no upfront linen purchase cost, just a simple weekly rental rate, and linens are delivered on a consistent schedule ensuring there is always sufficient supply to meet facility needs.
  • Enhanced dining room ambiance — Commercial linen suppliers offer a variety of napkin and tablecloth colors, enhancing dining room ambiance and reflecting seasonal and holiday changes.
  • Improved resident health and satisfaction — Studies show that when residents enjoy their dining experiences, they will increase their food intake and gain weight, but meals are much more than a chance to obtain proper nutrition; they also are an opportunity to socialize. In long-term care, the importance of dining experiences is evident when residents plan their daily activities around mealtimes. 


  • Environmentally sound practices – Commercially laundered cloth napkins are used multiple times, versus a single-use paper napkin. We ensure that customers' linen napkins are washed, dried and finished with techniques selected to maximize sustainability, meeting quality standards for conserving resources, controlling sewer discharges and otherwise minimizing environmental impact.  We deploy state-of-the-art, high-capacity washing, drying and wrinkle-removal equipment and document efficiencies in water and energy use and best management practices (BMPs).

Dempsey Uniform & Linen Supply is a voluntary member of the Laundry Environmental Stewardship Program (LaundryESP®), and the US EPA Sustainability Partnership Program, which includes programs such as WaterSense, Energy Star and WasteWise.  

P.J. Dempsey is the president of Dempsey Uniform & Linen Supply, which has its headquarters in Jessup, PA.

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