By Brittany Engel
Dietary Director
Arlington Court Skilled Nursing & Rehab

Skilled nursing facilities across the country are embracing a more hospitable approach to dining. Though it was once commonplace for meals to occur at set times and include pre-portioned, pre-packaged options, more and more SNF operators are letting residents weigh in on what — and when — they eat.

The restaurant-style dining trend is not new for other parts of the senior care industry. At some assisted living and independent living communities, for instance, mealtimes have become a more lavish affair. In skilled nursing it’s a little tougher to go high-end, however here at Arlington Court we have made significant changes to our menus to accommodate dietary restriction while at the same time offering several choices for that specific diet.

Choices, choices, choices

A typical skilled nursing menu might offer just one or two choices, at Arlington Court we have several nutritious options to choose from. We offer a choice menu for every meal that is served as well as an always available menu with six different items that change according to season. And long gone are the days when skilled nursing facilities ask residents to order their meals two or three days ahead, we have restaurant style where the residents orders at the point of service.

Here at Arlington Court we let residents choose when, not just what, they want to eat. The idea is for residents to drop in when they’re hungry and leave when they’re done eating. The end goal is for a SNF dining room to function the same way a restaurant might and we’ve done just that.

Restaurant-style dining is all the rage

The restaurant-style dining component to our operation is linked very closely with our overall pledge of care. As part of that pledge, we revamped our dining program by adding higher-end fare to the menu, such as shrimp and preparing meals from scratch. We also make a point to ask our residents what they want to see on the menu and incorporate these items, which may remind them of what country they came from or even their childhood, in our menu. In short, restaurant style dining can encourage independence, promote choice and restore the love of food for residents.