How to choose a senior living food contractor

Choosing A Food Contractor

How to choose a senior living food contractor

Usually, The Culinary Coach helps communities of all types self-operate their own dining departments. We provide the recipes, menus and training materials that CCRCs and assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing communities need to succeed. However, in this post we’re going to tell you how to choose a food contractor.

Why would we do this? Because we understand that for most C-level management professionals, self-operating is a daunting task and perhaps they know it’s just not for them, so we want to help out. We care about our elders and want everyone to have great food three times a day, so if we can’t help you self-operate, we want you to find someone good. Also, with COVID-19, schools and office complexes are now closed, which means a lot of food contractors are out there beating the pavement, looking for new contracts.

Here are a few steps to choosing a contractor:

1. Familiarize yourself with the food service provider landscape. There are mega food contractors and smaller food contractors. Ask around and make a shortlist.
2. Once you have a shortlist, send out a request for a proposal that includes all of these statistics:
a. Number of residents—IL, AL, MC and skilled.
b. Describe your meal plan—is it a spend down?
c. Average number of meals per day.
d. Type of dining venues you offer—café, fine dining, grab-and-go kiosks, coffee stands, etc.
e. Your cost per resident per day budget. If you have a budget of $8 per day or more, your residents should be able to eat very well.
f. Catering—list the frequency and types of catering for meetings and events you expect the contractor to fulfill.
3. Ask questions about money, employees, foods and standards:
a. What is the total management fee on an annual basis?
b. Who pays for small wares and equipment that leaves the building or gets lost?
c. Who pays for staff on catering engagements? (You may be surprised that most often contractors have you pay for the labor and then they charge you for the event.)
d. If the contractor can’t hold a dining director position in the community and a new one is imported from out of town, who pays for their travel expenses?
e. If the contractor has difficulty staffing your department and continues to run it with a temporary manager, what is the remedy for that?
f. Will the contractor use their employees, or yours? Will it be a blend of both? Who has the ultimate say in accountability of performance and standards?
g. If the food quality is unacceptable, what is the contract remedy for that?
h. Will the contractor source local, fresh foods? Will you have any input where the food comes from and how much it costs? Will the contractor source multiple vendors to keep costs competitive?
i. Will the contractor cook and serve fresh foods? Or do they rely on pre-prepared and frozen?
j. Ask about their dining server training and standards.
k. Ask for at least 3 or 4 references that you can call. Also, ask around the associations to get some references that they haven’t given you.
4. Contracting. When it comes to contracting, protect yourself with exit clauses in case the service and/or food is unsatisfactory. Give them a one- to two-year contract maximum and resign based on their performance.

Contracting a dining company to feed your residents and live within your community is a big undertaking. If you have any questions or just want some assistance, please feel free to reach out to us. Our mission is to help seniors get the best food available!

Contact Culinary Coach today at 888-776-5135!