Consider It Done! – Hospitality Mavericks Bring Restaurant Mindsets to elevate the Senior Living Dining Experience

While many enterprises have been impacted by the ongoing pandemic, more than most, the hospitality industry has suffered significant job losses since the outbreak began.   Recognizing the tremendous value of this displaced workforce, Unidine was quick to pivot their talent acquisition strategy to capitalize on the expertise of commercial operators.

Senior Living Uncovered highlights stories from Unidine team members directly recruited from divergent hospitality sectors to continue their employment in the elder care dining arena. Through their personal stories of transition we uncover the limitless opportunities within this emerging sector, revealing senior living for what it is – an essential meal service with explosive growth potential and best-in-class hospitality excellence.

Unidine has successfully disrupted the Senior Living industry by thinking differently, approaching the continuum of care service model through proven hospitality solutions. With COVID-19 displacing thousands of hospitality professionals across hotels, cruise ships, corporate campuses, sports and entertainment sectors we will provide visibility into the opportunity to harness these mutual skill sets and bring resort level amenity service, multi venue culinary differentiation and on-demand dining to the aging population.

A study by The Urban Institute predicts that the number of Americans ages 65 and older will more than double over the next 40 years, reaching 80 million in 2040 calling for the next generation of hospitality professionals to step up and step forward into the future of dining – senior living.

Jon Dutton, District Manager at Unidine transitioned out of his corporate dining role at an investment banking firm and into senior living after thinking critically about the marketplace shift in the wake of the pandemic. Jon saw an opportunity for personal change, a new challenge and career acceleration. He noted “I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines and take life as it came at me. I wanted to move to an innovative and disrupting organization where I could position myself for advancement and engagement.”

Jon began his career as a chef and has rooted his management approach with a passion for food. His cooking background allowed him to reinfuse culinary creativity back into his career – something he felt was lacking in the corporate world of workplace dining. “The transition was a no-brainer, I really enjoyed the restaurant environment and missed that impressiveness and engagement that I have found within senior living dining.”

Compared to corporate dining, the senior living marketplace allows for connectivity, engagement and for a job well done – reward. Jon asserts “I have a huge sense of pride in senior living, we truly are an integral part of their life. I like to think of this time as the most relaxed, most enjoyable and most rewarding time for them. Ensuring we’re crafting a dining environment that’s care-free and joyous carries a lot of responsibility but can be incredibly rewarding.”

In contrast to his previous role, the senior living industry offers the perfect combination of diverse responsibility coupled with work-life-balance. Jon asserts “Before Unidine, I only worked directly with one client, now I work with almost ten. There’s a lot of agility needed as each of my clients has different needs, communication styles and desires for the future of their community.  This requires me to be proactive and adaptive to keep those relationships strong.” For many like Jon, excitement comes from working across communities and delivering on differentiated needs.

On work-life-balance Jon went on to explain “There’s also a great deal of structure in a continuum of care setting.  Sure I’ll have a couple of longer days now and then but it’s typically very set, predictable hours meaning I get more time with my family and those I love”. Often in other sectors like sports, entertainment and performing arts, leadership roles in operations can require over twelve-hour days and long weekends away from home.  Senior living provides both a cadence of structure and work-life-balance.

Operators often highlight the heightened importance food and dining carries for residents, explaining it’s the most important indicator of satisfaction within the communities we serve. That’s especially true during the current pandemic where lockdowns and distancing mandates can minimize opportunities for engagement and connectivity. Jon notes “There’s so much emotion that comes with food.  It provides instant satisfaction, gratification and a warmth that comes out of an hour spent engaging with others.”

What excites Jon about the future of the senior living industry is the real-time evolution of the client. As the Baby Boomer generation increasingly ages into retirement their expectations evolve in tandem with the external environment. Jon asserts “It’ll be interesting to see what food trends come with the evolution of Baby Boomers. It could range from the traditional bread-and-butter steakhouse to 50’s inspired diners, participating in these culinary evolutions and inspired themes is both exciting and motivating for me as I truly sink my teeth into this unique industry”.

Unidine is enjoying marked expansion within the elder care industry’s growth fueled by our reputation as a best-in-class dining partner. Interested in joining a hospitality food and dining management leader with a rapid growth trajectory, opportunity for advancement and affirmation of delivering life-enhancing service? Don’t have experience in senior living? Don’t worry, at Unidine we are always looking for the next generation of hospitality professionals to join our team and enliven our culture of service excellence. See our open roles here:

About Unidine: Unidine operates in over 400 facilities and is the leading provider of food and dining management services for discerning clients throughout the United States. Since its founding in 2001 by President and CEO Richard B. Schenkel, Unidine’s success derives from consistent execution in four key areas – and exclusive focus on food and dining management services, a commitment to seasonal, fresh-from-scratch cooking, exceptional customer service and a corporate culture enlivened by each team member’s passion for culinary and service excellence. Unidine’s network of dietitians and culinarians leverage the latest research to support cultural enrichment and wellness strategies for senior living communities, and also exceptional service for hospitals, behavioral health facilities and corporations.