The “Restaurant Revolution” at Spectrum: Senior Living Dining Means the Cruise Ship Experience
When you think of senior living dining services, you probably conjure images of a slow-moving cafeteria-style food line, sad plastic trays, and unappetizing substances in varying shades of beige.
But thanks to Spectrum Retirement, that doesn’t have to be the case.
Spectrum is launching a “restaurant revolution,” and changing the very way we think about senior dining services.
David Neves, a lifelong restauranteur, joined Spectrum a little more than two years ago as Vice President of Food and Beverage. Upon joining Spectrum, Neves made his initial priority interviewing residents, chefs, and nursing directors around the country about their dining experiences at their communities.
And the responses made it clear there was a lot that could be improved upon.
Residents wanted more variety… better flavors… ambiance. In other words, they wanted to feel like they were eating in a real restaurant.
Interestingly, Spectrum has long offered a wide variety of food options, thanks to a high-end subscription meal service. There were many options for each meal, little repetition in the menu, and all the dishes met nutritional requirements.
“Spectrum had been offering huge cyclical menus wherein meals were only being repeated once or twice over the course of a few weeks,” says Neves. “That’s a reasonable amount of repetition.”
The problem was that the menu presentation made it difficult for residents to see what their choices were.
“The menu was presented in what I like to call the ‘greasy bible,’” says Neves. “It was a heavy book that listed out two entree selections per day, even though in reality the residents could have ordered anything they wanted.”
The recipes also lacked a certain appeal.
“It was obvious that there hadn’t been a lot of culinary input into the subscription service recipes,” says Neves
Spectrum decided to shake things up by investing in top-of-the-line kitchen equipment and hiring renowned chefs to help develop a new menu.
The result was a fresh, restaurant style menu with a variety of sandwiches, salads, entrees, and desserts. The new options are presented on a physical menu that looks typical of casual dining restaurants you’ve been going to for years. And the food is all chef, nutritionist, and resident approved.
The Healthy Food Ethos and Room for Choice
These days, designing meals for Spectrum residents in the test kitchen isn’t much different from designing meals for restaurants, according to Neves. “Good nutrition isn’t new to the restaurant–dining scene—restaurants can’t have a menu full of fried foods, tons of sugar, or tons of salt.” Spectrum shares a healthy food ethos that drives menu choices, but doesn’t sacrifice taste.
The delivery of food is also taking on a new look. Rather than a “dining room,” for example, Spectrum is moving towards restaurants with servers. In January 2021, a brand-new community opened in South Elgin, Illinois – Silver Glen Senior Living. There, Spectrum officially launched phase 4 of their “restaurant revolution.” That is, the community will include two branded and named restaurants— Honey and Thyme and Longfellows — that will operate like dining on a cruise ship does. The themes of each of the restaurants is different, their brands are different, their menus are different, and even their servers’ uniforms will be different.
Spectrum is elated to offer seniors better food, more choices, and a more enjoyable dining experience overall. Welcome to the new era of dining.