The following is excerpted from an interview on culinary services over the next decade.
Vice president of marketing
Sodexo Seniors North America
Manager, solution development
Sodexo Seniors North America
Baxter-Magro: A few key trends have definitely arisen: There’s the empowered consumer; the baby boomers have higher expectations. Another is digital transformation: Operators will be challenged to transform their business with digital tools, platforms, to deliver more specialized care. The third one is something we’re seeing more and more in the industry: coopetition, companies partnering to build synergy and scale, to drive efficiency.
Bundren: Often, food drives the decision of where to live. Our partners are looking for ways to differentiate. And residents are looking for choice; 24/7, casual dining. They want food fresh and locally sourced.
Our partners are getting very creative about engagement. For instance, in the past, we would buy ice cream from local vendors. But now, clients are looking to create their own niche, their own brand; maybe that means making homemade ice cream on the spot, in their community.
Baxter-Magro: The ability to strengthen the network of local sources is going to be key. Bringing in on-site capabilities for microfarms or aeroponics to supplement food producers is another thing I think we’ll see more of.
An evolving behavior we’re starting to see is around cleanliness and sanitation. Consumers are going to have a heightened sensitivity around the safety precautions taken in the production and handling of food.
We’ve also started doing pop-up groceries, so people have access to basics to make a sandwich in their rooms, have some fruit, without having to go out. Thankfully, as a large company we have strong supply networks that afford us the opportunity to do that. Our traditional business model was not to provide groceries on-site, obviously, but we’ve adapted to support that need.
The new norm for senior living communities will require solutions to support more protective operations and strengthening the public trust and perception of senior living communities is part of that path forward.
Communities are going to have to adjust their approach to include social distancing, health tracking, and restricted access. Residents will no longer crowd into a single dining area, but rather use tools for remote ordering, dine in smaller isolated groups, or take their meals in their residences.
Dining will need to be responsive to more frequent changes to the food supply chain, dealing effortlessly with many product substitutions while ensuring safety regarding medication conflicts and allergies.
Each resident will want more control over what they eat and when they eat it, creating a “room service” model. The resident will see tailored menu choices based on dietary restrictions. All of this will be transacted over the personal device of the resident, eliminating the need for any payment contact.
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