As we look toward the coming New Year and the hopefulness that this fresh start offers, it is expected that we will start to see some changes in senior living culinary trends. Crafting innovative and delicious meals for our guests means that we follow trends and developments in the culinary industry. The last 2+ years have seen many changes in how we develop our menus, execute dishes, and regularly make modifications of what we are doing to address changes and disruptions. The old saying of “The only constant is change” still rings true today as we continue to adapt. 2023 will see a continued evolution of our service models and approach to culinary in senior living.
With frequently changing availability of goods, expect to see more local sourcing of products to become the norm for more communities. This is actually an ideal outcome stemming from supply chain disruptions because locally sourced food and products are better for us and the seniors we serve. This, in turn, should increase the seasonality on all our menus as well, which again, is ideal. With the hope that supply chain disruptions will begin to ease, we will continue to see creative ways to expand our menus and menu options from our locally sourced options. The overall expectation should and will be that senior living dining programs should be increasing their focus on fresh aspects across their menu engineering.
Sous Vide Cooking
Sous vide cooking is definitely not new in culinary trends, but it certainly is to senior living. Sous vide is a French term that translates to “under vacuum” which makes sense as you typically vacuum seal anything for sous vide cooking. This method of cooking utilizes a water bath held at a certain temperature with an immersion circulator (a cooking wand that circulates the water and holds it at the desired temperature), which cooks items perfectly the same temperature all the way through, over an extended period of time while forcing into the item any flavors that have been vacuumed sealed with it. Sous vide cooking actually has a ton of benefits for our demographic of guests as well as the rising costs of prime cuts of meat. With the cooking process being a slower, longer period of time, it gives less costly cuts of meat more time to cook slowly for a much more tender result.
It is also very forgiving, so it holds at the same temperature for a long period of time without over cooking. Another great benefit of sous vide cooking is the ability to quickly finish and serve ala carte products that we used to not be able to due to the long cooking time and our clients being used to the scoop-and-serve style service of the past. Sous vide is also great for the less costly cuts of meat that have much more flavor but have been less used. This approach opens up a whole new avenue for menu development.
Increased Use of Technology & Counter Service
Staffing shortages are still very real in senior living, which means we will see changes in service models as we renovate, redesign and improve our workflows and flow of service. The use of modern technology, including robots, for delivering food are increasingly appearing in our communities and I would expect to see more of this as a way to provide consistent service and give our staff the opportunity to take care of other tasks. Whether it is delivery of food, or picking up dirty dishes, they provided needed support for our teams. With the fast-moving innovation of technology and smart phones, this won’t be a dramatic change in our dining rooms.
Style of service can also expect to see changes as we make sure we can give the best service we can to our residents. More counter service has started, especially with renovations that have been happening through the past couple of years. Counter service has increased as a popular options for some venues for Independent Living. This provides quick ‘grab and go’ options that many seniors enjoy and allows for an increased focused on other levels of care across continuing care retirement communities. It can also be a catalyst to further diversify dining venues in communities and moving away from those old scoop-and-serve models of the past that many still think of today when they think of senior living dining.
Increased Focus on Gluten Free & Vegan Options
While we have seen a big focus on gluten free and dairy free options as well as vegan options in the food and beverage world over the past ten years or so, this was not the case for culinary teams in senior living. Luckily that has started to change as a new generation of foodies have retired and joined senior living communities. Moving into 2023 there will be an even larger focus on gluten free options across the board. Whether it’s a burger and fries, a pasta dish, or even pizza, there will be and has already started to become an expectation that these diets will become part of the normal considerations when building menus. With the higher skill set of the new age classically trained chefs entering the senior living culinary scene, these expectations will not only become a reality, but will become the standard for new guests who have had more access to these options in everyday dining settings.
With the world of culinary now at everyone’s fingertips, be it TV cooking shows, mobile apps for cooking, or just social media, the expectations and education of our residents continues to grow. There is a continued increase in calls for plant-based options besides your standard and frankly boring “vegetable plate.” We have access to new brands of plant-based meat as well as the trusty tofu. My team has developed sweet potato, beet and even turnip “scallops” to mimic the seafood favorite. We have harnessed new techniques in cooking that give us the creativity to bring greater variety to our vegan/vegetarian and dairy free guests.
As exciting and beneficial as this is for our residents and guests, it is just as exciting for our culinary teams, who get the opportunity to think outside the box, work together to come up with new inventive ways of creating delicious, healthy dishes with an even higher culinary approach than before. While senior living dining has changed dramatically in recent years, what won’t change is how my team and I approach each and every meal we make for the community we serve with enthusiasm. Learn more about our culinary services here at Morrison Living and how we can help you build community one meal at a time.