PERIOD OF SERVICE
Firstly, we were invited to visit all the client’s developments that operate independent retirement living with a meal service and this allowed us to gain a far greater understanding of the culture within each of the client’s locations throughout Scotland.
Like most businesses who offer a meal service the clients have had to face challenges that none of us would have envisaged prior and during the last 12months.
What each of the visits have achieved is to make the ‘invisible’ more visible, and through each of our individual development reports allowing the client to have a far greater understanding of what is happening in each location.
We divided our summary report into six key areas, which we have expanded upon below:
The client’s staff have had to work through considerable changes to how the service is provided and what their role is, as well as changes to their terms and conditions over the last 3 years. Many of them were still coming to terms with the changes and this is further complicated by perceived mixed messages about what they can and cannot do. Many of the staff have very long service with the client and therefore with changes this adds layers of historical information about how the service should run.
We believe there were 4 different categories of developments within the ‘Independent Retirement Living with a Meal’ service and one solution does not fit all. We detailed this in our individual development visitation reports.
We recommend that a communication and marketing meal service strategy is developed, which would be followed by a relaunch of the meal service. CedarRevive supported with this project through consultancy over a couple of months whereby the client Board Members, the Directors and Senior Management Team Members, Middle Management and Support Function Members, Development Management and Cooks and all other staff have a clear understanding of what the Meal Service means to the client and their tenants.
‘Internal marketing’ can be as important as external, and both should work ‘hand in glove’.
There is an understanding at development level that decisions were made that relate to saving costs. However, there is also an understanding within each development that what was meant to evolve from the restructure has not materialised as envisaged by senior management, and there is a need for re engaging with these people. The care part of the client’s operation has either been forgotten by some or just does not exist and is not on their radar.
They have all identified that the changes to how the tenancies are arranged have had a devastating effect on the numbers of tenants who use the meal service, which is risking its viability.
There needs to be a fundamental change in the approach to the meal service by marketing it to show its benefits to the tenants, and those advising the tenants and their families on choosing the service. The service needs guidance and support to be able to run effectively and efficiently.
There is an over whelming need to achieve rent income, which has led or meant that the meal service has been dropped or ignored during the allocation and letting, leading to a strategy whereby of letting without meals. In the independent retirement living with meals is not happening which if continued there will been no meal service within the Bield developments.
There is a complete misunderstanding, wrong assumptions of the meal tariffs, lunch, and snack meal pricing, breakfast, morning coffee and afternoon tea opportunities which delivers more income are ignored and how income is allocated and accounted for in the Bield financial reporting system.
Internally, this needs to be analysed and discussed with a new sale and letting strategy introduced. How should this be introduced and aligned with Bield processes? “Does what it says on the tin”, needs to be delivered if the meal service is to be cost neutral.
A considerable issue is menu planning or the lack of guidance and understanding of balanced menus and nutritional needs. The lunch menu is usually the main meal of the day and some menus contain a reasonable choice of dishes. Only a small number of the menus include details of what the dish is served with, and this is an important part for the tenant to be able to picture what the meal will look like.
There are several menus that do not consider the frequency of different dishes and the distribution of meats and flavours over the week. There are huge differences in the developments with what the meal service provides for usually the same budget.
Some locations provide 2 courses and only one choice at lunch and others give 3 courses with 2 choices for each. The snack tea service is largely a ‘bought in’ product or a sandwich. Again, there are huge variations with some providing soup and pudding and others a sandwich and some home baking.
The menu planning needs to ensure that all the food groups are included have a good balance of variety and colour to ensure they are attractively presented and nutritious. The overall menu needs to provide the necessary nutrients to meet the guidelines. This is such an important part of the meal service from a nutritional and financial point of view.
Only one development has recipes written down, as they have a cook who has learning difficulties. The other units do not have any recipes noted down and this causes concerns about nutritional content of each dish and extra information being required about the allergens contained in each dish.
The allergen information in their kitchen manuals is based on the sample recipes that are not being used so this would cause a compliance issue if questioned by the EHO.
The chefs/cooks know their recipes or have their own copies of recipe books for home baking. However, having over 80 cooks involved in the meal service means there is no control or consistency in the ingredients purchased which is poor kitchen management.
3. Meal Service Management of Food Suppliers and Sundry Product Specifications; Pricing and Ordering System; Catering Supplier Accounting and Invoicing System
We would advise that CedarRevive, through consultancy, should agree a 4 weekly menu cycle with each development. This could be delivered through our chef manual system introducing recipes for each dish and ordering volumes.
This would resolve the issue of not having the same recipes and allergen information in each development, as well as guiding the cooks through the adaptations for each dish for special diets and reduce labour and food costs.
CedarRevive would produce a product specification and source a price with each of the suppliers, as the suppliers need to know what products are required for the menus.
Currently there are no controls as the butchers, dairy, fish, bread, fruit and veg suppliers all providing a different level of service, different product at different prices. The product specification needs to be set so the suppliers can give a cost for each item and the service can be produced from fresh ingredients purchased for good value prices.
The sundry and disposable prices are unknown and need to be considered with the same detail as the food prices to get the correct items at a good price.
CedarRevive, through consultancy, can advise and supply a catering accounting system whereby the volume of catering invoices can be dramatically reduced with an online reporting system that meets the needs of the client. Clearly, this will make the system more manageable and more cost effective for the client’s finance department.
Many of the developments are clearly over staffed in the kitchens and it would appear there is a ‘one fit’ solution for all developments. This does not work.
We would also advise there is an excessive use of agency staff which is not needed.
CedarRevive, through consultancy, can supply a catering staffing structure for each development which would involve only cooks. There is currently an overuse of service assistants that is not required.
(CedarRevive operate a housekeeper/cleaning consultancy service for clients which you may wish to discuss and consider as a separate consultancy project).
We are all working under unusual circumstances and delivering meals to the tenant’s flats, which is currently over staffed. We can advise how these numbers can be reduced.
The cook pay is the same as the general assistants, and that they do not think this is fair and does not give them the recognition for the role and responsibility that they have.
There was previously an increment system for pay for cooks to progress and be rewarded for development and training. Reinstating this would bring a better service to the tenants.
There is variability in the adaptations to dishes for special diets and the cooks need to have training in these special diets to improve their knowledge and to ensure they are providing options that are suitable for the dietary needs of the tenants.
The current staffing model provides 7 hours a day for a cook with each location having a different plan for timings and breaks.
They also have a general assistant and the number of hours they are in the kitchen each day is very variable and not required.
The number of hours per day is not always reflective of the number of meals served each day and should be reviewed per location. In some locations they have a larger number of tenants they provide the meal service for and in other locations the cook could do this on their own.
The Food Safety Management System is from 2014 and contains some useful information, but needs a full review and overhaul.
The cleaning schedules are standard and largely have not been customised. Some developments have made changes and created schedules to the unit and for assistants as well as cooks.
The contents of the policy information are not well known by the cooks, but they are very good at completing the paperwork and filing it or submitting it to the manager each month.
Individualised house rules and cleaning schedules are needed for each location to ensure they include all cleaning tasks and detail the correct chemical products used.
The cooks and managers should have read and understood the policy information to be able to fully implement it.
The Nutrition and Hydration Policy and Procedures from July 2018 is a good basis for a policy. However the details in the policy are either unknown by the locations visited so far or are not understood.
The policy and support do not go far enough in content or planned practical support to help each development with their menu planning and service delivery.
This document would need to be fully reviewed and implemented with each development and plans put in place to provide the support to be able to fulfil the requirements of the policy.
The development managers, deputy managers and cooks know the service and their tenants. They want to make sure that the service can be provided and that it is done well.
They know that they need support with the meal service and that support is now not available since the catering support manager left. With there being no catering department, they perceive that the service is not important.
We would recommend there is a need for introducing quality improvement processes, auditing, action planning and escalation processes.
CedarRevive would recommend initially having two area catering managers (east and west) with a relief cook for both areas. This structure could be reduced once all the recommendations have been implemented and operating successfully.
To support this operations structure CedarRevive would recommend a dietician/catering health and safety support.
We understand each cook is entitled to 5 weeks annual leave and sick pay and our structure would remove the need for agency staff.