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Savoring Satisfaction in the Dining Room

Karen Moriarty, Carillon Assisted Living President and CEO

Karen E. Moriarty, President and CEO

There is a point during the tour when most prospective residents ask a question that reveals what is most critical to their choosing Carillon Assisted Living as their new home: “How is the food?”

One of the benefits of age is learning what is really and truly important, and for most seniors, food is at or near the top of a short list. Carillon learned long ago that to provide exceptional care for residents meant placing a premium on the quality of their dining experience.  Today’s seniors are savvy consumers who know what they want, and what they want is restaurant quality dining with menu selections that take their tastes and preferences into account.

Carillon Executive Chef Bill Furnas and the entire dining services team are tasked with serving up meals that are as delicious as they are nutritious at all 19 Carillon communities; a task that they relish and deliver on each and every day in ways large and small. In fact, Furnas and his team have pulled off something of a culinary triumph by ramping up dining satisfaction scores for two years running, to a current all-time high of 4.3 out of a possible 5.0.

That’s a remarkable number, one that many fine dining establishments would love to claim. Especially because, as any chef would tell you, seniors are the hardest segment of the population to please. Palates and personal preferences change over the years, and medications often alter the taste and smell of certain foods.

For Carillon, success has come not from trying to please all the people all the time, but in taking a more person-centered approach to every dining service. Resident-led councils meet monthly at each Carillon community, giving residents a chance to sit and talk with dining team members, express any concerns they may have, as well as ideas for new recipes and enhanced menu offerings.

“There is a kind of magic that happens at those meetings,” says Bill Furnas. “A resident may come in with the intention of saying, ‘I’d like to see more strawberry jam on the table at breakfast,’ and that somehow turns into a wonderful discussion with the chef about homemade strawberry shortcake. And now we’re offering fresh strawberries more often, and on Sundays, there’s a fabulous strawberry shortcake for dessert. All because of a conversation about condiments. The point being: the way to a person’s heart, and to their stomach, is to hear what they desire.”

One thing no one desires is a restrictive, bland diet. Cafeteria-style cuisine has long been associated with assisted living homes, but Carillon has found creative ways to serve flavorful food while also meeting federal dietary guidelines.  One of Chef Furnas’ favorite tips is to sweeten iced tea with fruit juices rather than cane sugar. In Carillon kitchens, substitutions are carefully chosen so they don’t feel like sacrifices, and moderation is key.  The Carillon philosophy is simple – better to have a little bit of something succulent, than a whole lot of nothing special.

Carillon is currently enjoying the highest resident satisfaction scores in our 18-year history, owed in large part to the success of our dining program. On last year’s quarterly surveys, residents who said they were most happy living at a Carillon community were more than 80 percent likely to cite exceptional service in the dining room as a major factor. And is it any wonder? The dining room is such an important place in a senior living community. The socialization and interactions that happen there often determine how a senior feels about everything in the community.

In the words of Grace Fierro, who calls Carillon of North Raleigh home: “We spend so much time in the dining room, just laughing and enjoying each other’s company, that it does say something about the quality of the food and the service. I think it’s outstanding, and I’ll tell you something: people my age are not easy to please.”

Posted in From the President on March 3, 2015

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