A kitchen is at the heart of any home, and a care or residential home is no different. Care home kitchens undoubtedly see more action day in, day out, than any other room, and making sure that they are able to cope with those strenuous demands has always been an essential part of running a home.
When visiting prospective homes, the kitchen is always high on the decision maker’s list of priorities. Not only is a clean kitchen fundamental to keeping residents safe: a well-run, tidy and clean kitchen also gives a good insight into the way a home is managed, the standards it adheres to and the genuine care it provides.
It’s not just about health and safety. Increasingly, care homes that go the extra mile to deliver food that residents will enjoy are gaining a competitive advantage, with both prospective clients and their families looking towards those residential homes that offer a diverse, appetising menu rather than standard fare.
Changing attitudes to food in care In the past, care home food has had a reputation for being bland, pureed and unappealing. Unfortunately, this reputation hasn’t been entirely unfair – while nutritional intake has always been a priority, not every care home has gone to great lengths to make food look and taste great.
Now, more impetus is being placed on providing meals that don’t simply ‘tick boxes’ when it comes to nutritional value, but entice residents to clear their plates at meal times.
In a recent article in the Guardian, Anchor Homes’ Roy Garland stressed the connection between preparing appetising food that encourages residents to eat, and all-round healthier residents, commenting: “If you get the food right, then a lot of the medicine can go out of the window.”
Last year’s Care Catering Hero Gareth O’Hara also revolutionised food at the home where he works; Cardiff’s Sunrise Residential Care Home. A trained commercial chef, and one of the first recipients of the new NVQ level 2 diploma in professional cookery in health and social care catering, he and his team serve tasty, well-presented meals, no matter what the clients’ medical needs: pureed food (for residents suffering from dysphagia or other disorders) are moulded and served to look like ‘normal’ dishes.
Garland’s view is that no matter what the client’s dietary needs – whether they are able to easily eat solid foods or are on soft diets – the food they’re offered should look and taste great, and that offering a choice is essential to keeping clients well-nourished and happy.
Offering a choice Most homes offer a menu with different meals that residents can ‘pre-order’, but a new approach – rolled out by Garland across 50 Anchor homes in the UK– is to allow residents to choose their meals as they would in a restaurant. Options are written onto a board and plates are shown at the table.
It’s a process that no doubt puts the kitchen and its staff through their paces, but ultimately benefits everyone. According to Garland’s Guardian interview, it not only improves appetites but reduces waste and cuts costs. For prospective clients, this hard work goes to show the level of dedication the home provides to those living there.
Coping with demand For these methods to work, the care home’s kitchen needs to run efficiently. As you already know, elderly people and those with immune vulnerability are more at risk from food poisoning. Even a clean, tidy kitchen can harbour bacteria if it hasn’t been built to withstand a high level of wear and tear: porous substances like timber, MDF and grout posing a significant health hazard once they start to deteriorate.
With a slightly more complex level food preparation needed to facilitate Garland and O’Hara’s methods, a kitchen that can support this level of activity is essential. Yet a fully commercial kitchen can look too sterile in a care home setting, especially if your home encourages able residents to take part in kitchen activities.
Semi commercial kitchen solutions A semi-commercial can bring the best of both worlds to a care home kitchen, offering the durability of a commercial steel kitchen with the welcoming aesthetic of a domestic. With a steel frame and colourful (or neutral) cabinet doors, a semi-commercial model provides a long lasting solution without the institutional feel of a fully-commercial build.
Steelplan Kitchens have been providing flexible semi-commercial kitchens to care homes across the UK for over 30 years, with a range of options suitable for most budgets. To find out how we help you, call us on 0844 809 9186.