Elevate the Plate! 5 Senior Living Dining Trends

Today’s senior living residents are quite discerning when it comes to their taste buds. They are looking for all-inclusive communities that offer a diverse menu with chef-prepared foods. This new generation of seniors are “foodies” and much choosier than previous generations. They desire full-service restaurants with fresh, tasty cuisine, a modern environment, and a wine list that goes beyond the house red and white. In other words, they want a dining experience.

For senior living providers to stay competitive, the quality, availability, variety, and presentation of food can be a differentiator. What’s on your menu can attract and retain residents, keep occupancy rates healthy, make family members happy, and even drive expansion. Providers that offer extra dining perks such as around-the-clock dining, happy hour, and room service have an even greater edge.

As a result, many senior living hiring managers are turning to executive search firms to find that perfect VP of Culinary or Executive Chef.  Their ideal candidate is a well-trained chef from the hospitality industry who has an engaging personality.

Here’s an overview of job descriptions for both the VP of Culinary and Executive Chef:

A VP of Culinary (aka Culinary Operations Manager) works closely with operational leaders to set strategic goals, measure, analyze and report on revenues, meet culinary standards, quality control, processes and procedures, lead menu and recipe development, and provide leadership and culinary support and training and more.

The Executive Chef is the kitchen manager so food presentation, payroll, food-cost, personnel management is in their domain. But they also may share some duties with the VP of Culinary including menu creation, quality control, and culinary staff training.

What else are the expectations of residents when it comes to senior living dining?

Restaurant Style Dining:

Today’s senior residents are well-traveled, well-educated, more discerning, and have strong opinions when it comes to dining and food service.  For that reason, senior communities are upping their food game and offering restaurant-style dining. While restaurant style dining is not exactly new, it continues to evolve to the point of hiring experienced chefs, creating a new menu daily, offering dining rooms with servers, and food-focused events.

The Dining Experience:

According to A Place For Mom, seniors don’t want to just dine out, they want to be entertained as well. One of the biggest trends in senior living communities are open-concept kitchens that allow diners to watch chefs in action as they cook meats on a rotisserie and craft James Beard Award-worthy entrees. Diners can opt to sit at a bar to watch the action or they can reserve a table inside the kitchen and dine just feet away from a working chef.

In addition, seniors want the personal touch. Many communities dress up their dining rooms with white tablecloths and place flower bouquets on every table. Servers greet each person by name and offer a glass of wine or a cocktail. Again, it’s not about just providing a meal, but providing a dining experience.

Health Conscious Foods:

Dupont Health & Nutrition conducted a study to identify the key drivers when it comes to the aging population and food. The results suggest that positive health outcomes are crucial.  With that in mind, senior living communities are looking at farm-to-table solutions. Farm-to-table is a movement that promotes serving fresh, healthy local food with food traceability (knowing where your food comes from). Some senior living operators are actually growing produce on site including herbs and vegetables.

Independent Restauranteurs Inside Senior Living:

According to Senior Housing News, in the future we could be seeing independent restauranteurs run a restaurant within a senior living community. In other words, communities would partner with a restauranteur who wants to open and operate their restaurant within in a senior living community but would also be open to the public.

Variety of Foods & 24-Hour Dining:

In a dining report by Managed Health Care Associates in conjunction with Senior Housing News, it states that senior residents are not only choosing what they eat but when they eat as well. A few providers today are offering 24- hour food service options, such as grab-and-go choices, food or snack carts that are accessible any time, and venues that remain open late into the evening and open early in the morning. Some senior living communities are opening up bistros with fully operational grills where residents can order burgers and fries outside of normal  meal hours.

In order to stay competitive, senior living operators need to change with the times. Baby boomers will not settle for the senior living environment and plain meal options of the past. This savvy, modern, and discerning generation is expecting much more including all-inclusive communities that offer around-the- clock chef prepared foods.



Julie Rupenski is the Founder, President & CEO of MedBest, opening the doors in 2001. Since that time, Julie has gained national recognition for providing top talent solutions exclusively for the Senior Living Industry. Her specialties include filling C-Suite, Vice President, Regional, and Property level positions.

Julie has an in-depth knowledge of the Senior Living Industry since she previously worked in operations for both Senior Housing and Senior Living. Today, Julie makes it her personal and professional mission to place qualified people in health care positions where they have the greatest impact.

Julie earned her degree in Gerontology at the University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida and continues to cultivate her career through senior living conferences, forums, trade shows, and expos.

Julie’s industry articles and interviews have been published in Provider Magazine, Argentum Quarterly, LeadingAge Magazine, Florida Health Care Association, Florida Assisted Living Association, Florida Senior Living Association, LeadingAge Florida, LeadingAge Indiana, Pennsylvania Health Care AssociationOregon Health Care Association, and Virginia Assisted Living Association.

Contact Julie Rupenski at / 727-526-1294.


MedBest is a national Executive Search Firm exclusive to the Senior Living Industry established in 2001.  We recruit and acquire quality executive talent for all types of Senior Living facilities across the US including Assisted Living, Continuing Care Retirement Communities, Independent Living, Memory Care, and Skilled Nursing Homes. For top talent or to find your next position, contact MedBest at or 727 526-1294.

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