Calling it – “The steak is the shoulder of a cow” – In Senior Living?

Calling it – “The steak is the shoulder of a cow” – In Senior Living?

Prime cuts of beefThe first impressions of the dining experience at your senior living community can affect occupancy…or someone coming back…

Is your community twenty years old and does it look it?  Can you add fresh flowers on each dining table to spruce it up?  Are linen tablecloths and napkins a standard?  Or have you cut these items from your operations budget?  You may have a great chef, the best service and a beautiful dining room, but the wrong words can also leave a bad impression…

On a recent trip to Seattle, my family decided to go to McCormick and Schmicks – a nice dining restaurant on the water.  The waiter greeted us and shared his steak and lobster special of the day.  Hmm, I thought – that sounds good.  We asked what type of steak it was.  Then he said, “The steak is the shoulder of a cow.”  He walked away from us, so we could contemplate the menu and we immediately started saying – what???  Why would someone talk about the steak as the shoulder of cow, which is not very appetizing?  My sister-in-law said, I envision a cow with a hacked off shoulder.”  We all started getting grossed out and laughing.    When the waiter came back, we teased him and told him that the shoulder of a cow did not sound good.  He apologized and said he forgot the proper term to say which was “Terrace Major.”  We all agreed that was not appetizing either.

What descriptor words are on your retirement community’s menu?  Is the dining staff trained to sell the food?  We’ve all been to fine dining restaurants where they describe the desert in a magnificent way or they bring a tray to show the yummy deserts – then it is really hard to say no.  Many senior living communities that I have visited – say, “Would you like desert?”  That’s it!?!!  They should say we have 10 deserts for you to select from, can I share the choices with you?  (Most retirement communities have many ice creams to choose from, a sugar free desert, a baked desert, fresh fruit and canned fruit.)

Let’s make our residents feel special every day of the week!  Dining should be a stimulating experience for them!  What does your senior living community do to make the residents feel like they are experiencing fine dining?

Diane Twohy Masson is the author of Senior Housing Marketing – How to Increase Your Occupancy and Stay Full,” available for sale at  If your curiosity is piqued to inquire on Diane’s availability to speak at a senior housing conference (CCRC, independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing or memory care) – please call: 206-853-6655 or email  Diane is currently consulting in Southern California for Freedom Management Company, the proud debt-free owners of Freedom Village in Lake Forest and The Village in Hemet, California.  For more information:   Twitter: @market2seniors Web: Blog:


  1. Group: Senior Housing Forum (
    Discussion: Calling it – “The steak is the shoulder of a cow” – In Senior Living?

    Diane – thank you for your excellent insights! I find it interesting that your previous posting was entitled “Is there a strawberry on your plate” and today’s posting deals with steaks and dining rooms. That must be why I start to get hungry when I see a posting from you!!!

    Seriously, here is a thought that folks in senior housing may find helpful. In our Independent Living communities we make sure that we have a Host/Hostess at the front of the dining room when residents arrive. That Host/Hostess is charged with a critical task: ensuring that residents sit in DIFFERENT tables around the dining room and with DIFFERENT people. Yes, I realize and salute the fact that some residents want to always sit with the same people but when we can, we try to “mix it up”. In my opinion, creating opportunities for residents to expand their social network during the dining experience produces multiple benefits for all. Clearly, social engagement has a lot to do with wellness and the more we can do to help our residents have more friends the better. With new company at the dining table comes new conversations on new topics. The result? Residents who are more focused on being social and engaging and perhaps less focused on service times and food challenges. I’m not suggesting that we don’t all do everything we can to produce top shelf culinary selections….that should be a “given”. I am suggesting that finding way to help residents engage with one another puts another positive spin on the dining experience. For me, this is the vanilla ice cream on top of my warm apple pie!…..

    Posted by William Wexler

  2. As I walked through the Dining Room on Wednesday of last week, I saw our cook Teresa wheeling a cart that smelled heavenly. She asked a resident if they would like to try her Pumpkin Bread with homemade Pecan Butter. Of course they did. Each resident was treated with warm Pumpkin Bread with a topping of homemade pecan butter and kind words and smiles from Teresa. Going the extra mile…Teresa…Customer Service is a priority throughout any organization. There are other places to cut corners than the dining room. Eating a pleasant meal in a nice social environment is a keystone of success for any senior living facility.
    Good article. High importance :)

  3. In response to your article I want to bring attention to my company, Unidine. For over 10 years we have been working with senior communities to de-institutionalize the dining services that are offered to residents. Unidine employs a fresh food and retail-oriented strategy that raises satisfaction, improves quality of residential life, controls costs and integrates the dining services into overall resident care. Our managers and professional chefs actively engage with residents to create memorable dining experiences that also provide a competitive edge over other facilities in the geography. I invite you to visit our website, for a complete description of the Unidine operating philosophy.

  4. Group: Elder Care Professionals
    Discussion: Calling it – “The steak is the shoulder of a cow” – In Senior Living?

    Appealing is great. nutritious is even better. both can easily be accomplished with a little extra effort.

    Posted by Sandy Rasque, MHA

  5. Group: Senior Living Executives
    Discussion:Calling it – “The steak is the shoulder of a cow” – In Senior Living?

    I agree having managed over 36 retirement communities nation wide. The dining experience is a direct reflection on the community as a whole. Retirement companies either take a stand and reflect dining as important or not having managed enough communities to know the difference. Food Choices, Preparation, Presentation,plus Polite and Timely Service is the key to

    Excellent Resident Satisfaction, “Note the caps”…
    Posted by Peter Brooks