Today, Senior Director of Dining Services Christine Pacitti is discussing big changes that Meadowood is making to its dining experiences.
The team had been planning changes before this past year, and closing during the pandemic gave them the opportunity to transform their dining venues.
“We have had a year-and-a-half to look at our programming, and ask, “What can we do differently to improve our dining experiences?” Christine says.
All of the changes have been based on resident feedback, including comment cards, input from the Meadowood Dining Committee and resident satisfaction surveys.
Residents “really wanted to see three different dining venues with three different menus and feels,” Christine says.
So that’s just what she and her team have created, and all with made-to-order menus. “On March 15, we re-opened our main dining venue. On April 1, we opened all three of our dining venues — some with limited days and times — putting out new menus and new systems,” says Christine.
More Flexibility in the Main Dining Room
“In our main dining room, we went from just having eight entrée offerings at night to over 12,” she says. They also increased their appetizer and salad offerings.
“The feedback from residents had been, ‘I don’t come to the main dining room because I don’t want a full meal’ — which included soup, salad, entrée and two sides, dessert and a beverage.”
“Now everything is à la carte pricing,” says Christine. “People can come in and say, ‘I want a French onion soup and Caesar side salad.’ They can pick and choose what they want. Maybe they want chicken piccata, but only one vegetable. They have that convenience of just paying for what they want to eat — and enjoying a smaller meal.”
Greater Variety in the Café
There have been major changes in the Café as well. “We’re changed what we’re offering at night,” Christine explains. “Residents wanted a full dinner entrée — now they have four or five to choose from. We also added made-to-order omelets, and rotisserie roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and a fresh vegetable. It’s so popular, residents love it.” Another new item is the hearth bake special. “Residents can have this made with a healthier pasta — chickpea, lentil or cauliflower pasta.”
Whereas the Café used to offer grill night and pizza night, now these dishes are available seven nights a week, along with additional healthy offerings, like pizza with whole wheat or cauliflower crust. And while cheesesteaks and hamburgers are still available, black bean burgers and salmon cake sandwiches are also on the menu.
Expanded Seating in the Bistro
Residents are excited that the most popular eatery at Meadowood is back three days a week. “It’s upscale, it’s trendy, it has that really nice bar atmosphere,” says Christine. “It’s like your favorite little bistro in Skippack right on campus.”
The Bistro has an expanded menu in the works, featuring several new appetizers. One item they’re keeping: the legendary lobster roll sandwich. “Everyone loves it!” exclaims Christine.
Other favorites include drunken mussels and high-end signature soups, like crab corn chowder and lobster bisque garnished with lobster. “We let the cooks use their imagination and their creativity,” says Christine.
“Because the Bistro is so popular, we sell out every night,” she continues. That’s why Meadowood is looking to expand the Bistro with 26 additional seats during the next few months.
Creating an Amazing Dining Experience for Residents
Of course, reopening has been made more challenging with current government restrictions. Meadowood is seating at 75% capacity, and no outside guests have been allowed yet.
There’s also a new point-of-service ordering system in the main dining room: The servers take an order on a table, and it gets sent electronically to the kitchen. “Out in the Café, there’s going to be a kiosk where residents can pre-order, and it gets shipped to the different areas they ordered from,” Christine explains.
The changes have been an adjustment for everyone. “You’re just getting back and your world has changed in the dining room,” Christine says, “but the majority of residents have been really positive about the changes. They are glad to get back and see each other, see the staff, and experience the new, different venues and menus. They love the new programming.”
And that’s what the changes are all about. “After doing the survey through Pinnacle last year,” Christine says, “we had time to look over the feedback, and said, ‘Let’s come back with a bang. Let’s recreate what we had and make it better.’”
Although it’s been a lot of long days for the entire team, “everybody is energized,” she says. “Getting that great feedback from residents has been uplifting for my staff. It could take you a whole month to try all the different menu items in our venues.”