Before I get into the nitty-gritty with this post I have to make one thing perfectly clear - all three of us at Table 54 truly love our retirement community. When you find the place where you're going to spend the remaining years of your life (it doesn't matter if that means two months or twenty years) it has to be exceptional in every way. For all the wondrous perks we enjoy here, (see What Is Independent Retirement Living?) the dominating factor that led us to choose this community over others we toured can be explained in three words - breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Food is something near and dear to every senior, no matter their age (the average age in our community is 82). I'd have to say the menu and the excellence of the food served sits atop the list of topics discussed at tables throughout our dinning room. That being said, the menu and the food quality also head the list of complaints by our residents. This is probably true of every retirement community you can name. Trying to please over a hundred people at every meal is almost impossible.
We recently had a turn over of our entire kitchen. This was not due to the quality of the food the chefs were serving, they all moved on to better opportunities elsewhere and by coincidence they all left within one month of each other. Needless to say that caused not only staffing problems, but training problems as well. The new chefs not only had to learn how to run the kitchen but also how to order, prepare and serve the various menu items offered in our community. The new chefs have been with us a little over a month and there are still growing pains.
There have been days when the printed menu has been very different from the meals served. Running out of food items because orders with suppliers were placed incorrectly seems to occur way to often. Even little things like too much salt used in making biscuits or side dishes crops up too many times. For a community of people used to top-notch dining, the mistakes have been hard to swallow (pun intended).
The residents are grumbling at an above normal volume. They are looking forward to a meeting with managements kitchen supervisor who we'll refer to as Chef 5-Star. Not much is accomplished at these forums but it helps to get complaints off one's chest from time to time. And Chef 5-Star always makes an issue of taking lots of notes and he does make an effort to effect change.
We at Table 54 know that time is the answer to most of the problems we're living with at the moment. The chefs need time to learn to work as a team. They can't go off in their own directions and expect to accomplish much. Teamwork is essential in most business endeavors and a well run kitchen is certainly no exception.
The other side of the issue is time is of the essence where the kitchen is concerned. The quality of our food and the diversity of our menu are the two single-most important marketing tools of our community. Management is well aware of this and has been working double-time to try and solve the problems. Not so easy when you have to satisfy over 100 residents at every meal.
Perhaps time isn't the answer to our problems. Perhaps what we need more is patience.