The holiday season is full of festivities in senior living communities, from parties and happy hours to special meals and receptions for outside guests. As we approach the end of the year, many operators face challenges such as rising food prices and staffing concerns. But the most costly concern operators face is a lack of communication between the two most important departments this time of year – resident engagement and the food and beverage team.
We have compiled a list of the 5 key ingredients that will help food and beverage coordinators build a strong relationship with the engagement team that will help you not only have a successful holiday season, but will provide a foundation of communication to continue to host successful events through the coming year.
- Schedule a Recurring Planning Meeting
Most often the biggest issue foodservice directors have with engagement teams is the last-minute request. Whether it’s an activity that was overlooked or a change in the order, making accommodations at late notice can be frustrating and even costly. The key to avoiding this problem is through better communication. Consider scheduling a recurring meeting with your engagement and marketing directors to work through every event on the calendar, make adjustments to the orders, and collaborate to make average events even better.
- Institute an Event Order System
Make sure everyone is on the same page after the meeting with an easy-to-access event order system. The order form should have space to record all details of each event, including the department responsible and what food and supplies are needed. You should also create a specific set of guidelines for using and submitting events. Whatever system you have in place, the key is to make it easy for all staff to use. Every new employee in the foodservice and resident engagement departments should be familiar with the policies and procedures for using the system.
- Take Inventory
Do you have broken chafers or tables that need to be replaced? Do you need to buy linens or reusable decorations? Have you thought about serving platters, placements and merchandising items? Create a worksheet of all your event items and do an audit of them at least once a quarter. This will help you avoid the last-minute panic of making a run to the closest party planning or restaurant supply store and blowing your budget. You could also consider setting up a designated event closet or storage room to help keep track of the items on hand.
- Implement a Reservation System
Knowing how many to plan for at each event and meal during the holiday season can be a challenge. Some days might not be busy at all due to residents going to stay with family, while at the same time there will be events and even regular meals where families and outside guests are clamoring to join. Ease the headache of planning by creating a reservation system. It can be as simple as a spreadsheet kept at the front desk, a part of your point of sales system, or an easy-to-implement phone app. Regardless of what you use, be sure there is clear communication to residents and guests about cutoff dates and times, event costs, special meal and diet requests, and any other important details. Setting these expectations in advance will save all of the staff heartache come event time.
- Delegate Tasks to Other Departments
We’ve all heard the saying “many hands make light work.” The holiday season is a busy time for both foodservice and resident engagement departments. Help ease the burden by working with your executive director to institute an “all hands on deck” approach to event coverage and support. Engage your sales and marketing director to host and bartend a happy hour (and invite prospects), or, have your maintenance and housekeeping teams assist with set up and clean up of larger events.
One final point - be sure that you make time for your team to also enjoy the holidays. If they feel stretched thin with the chaos of the holiday schedules, you will have employees that are less likely to help or do the little extras that will make your events shine. Make time for them to be off with family, or host a casual employees-only party to show your appreciation. This will go a long way toward winning them over, and having the best versions of them come showtime.
So as we get ready for the upcoming holidays, use these ingredients to create a fool-proof recipe for holiday success.
Need a hand?
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Aaron Fish has nearly 30 years of hospitality industry experience, spending time in the industry with a singular focus on the customer experience. Having gained experience in some of the top hospitality organizations in the country, (such as such as Marriott Hotels, Aramark, and The Broadmoor Hotel to name a few) he brings a keen attention to building customer-focused operations to the senior living industry. From Dining Room Manager to Senior Vice President, Aaron has spent his career creating best-in-class experiences for the residents and guests he serves. He does this with an eye towards innovation in concept design, as well as implementing a combination of best practices, system development, and quality training for all levels throughout any organization.
Aaron holds a B.S. in Hospitality Management from Kansas State University and an MBA in Marketing from Baker University.