Pros & Cons of Buffet Service in Aged Care
Many aged cares these days provide Buffet meals to offer more variety, flexibility to choose & flexible meal times. However, there is always two sides of the coin.
So, what are Pros & Cons of buffet service in Aged Care?
- Multiple Choice available at meal times – Residents are not stuck with similar items pretty much every day. Buffet setup allows residents to easily choose a different item for breakfast/lunch/dinner.
- Flexible Meal Times – The buffet allows catering staff to perform other duties while residents are helping themselves for the meal. This reduces the service time pressure on the staff and hence results in offering meal service for a longer time span. Staff are not running around trying to prepare full breakfast (meal) for 20 – 30 residents by a certain time.
- NO Rush for residents – Resident has the luxury of having breakfast at their preferred time. They are not rushed to shower & ready for breakfast early morning.
- Reduced Paperwork – Since most of the residents help themselves at meal times, it reduces the number of lists and other information that staff has to go through every day. The catering department may still have some sort of records for quick reference but it still avoids unnecessary paperwork.
- Better customer service – As the morning rush or meal time rush reduces, the catering & care staff are able to spend more time with residents and offer better customer service. It can really impact positively on the dining experience for the residents.
- Encourage residents to be more actively involved – Unless the resident is not at all able to collect their own meal, they are encouraged to be more independent & actively involved at meal times. This is a huge advantage as opposed to offering all services at the doorstep resulting in residents becoming less active and dependent.
- Wastage – Buffet literally means offering multiple items based on a guesstimate. Cooking multiple items on a pure guesstimate can really cause unnecessary food wastage & higher costs. Buffets in restaurants / hotels are a little different from aged care. In hotels/ restaurants the turn over is considerably high hence left-over items can be used straight away or can be modified in other menu items. Many restaurants offer buffet to get rid of over prepared or unsold items. This is clearly not the case in aged care. Aged care requirements & food safety laws are a big factor when it comes to reusing items from buffet.
- Taking away chef’s touch – It is important to notice that buffets are usually cheaper than a la carte items. Simply because it requires lesser staff to offer service and chefs are not spending time in garnishing each plate and making sure the proportion & presentation of the meal is up to the standards. This is a real drawback in my opinion. Chefs can take a meal from mediocre to a top-quality dish with the touch of the proper garnish, proportion & presentation.
- Lack of understanding of clientele – Since the chefs do not cook specific dishes for particular residents and are not in direct contact with them at the meal times, it leads to disconnection from residents. The same principle applies to serving staff. As residents collect their own meal, it reduces the interaction with staff and more personal touch is taken away at meal times
- Buffet Management – As much as buffet can be easy to produce & set up, it can be difficult to maintain. Usually, when buffet is set up, all garnish is done & each items are presented. If refills are not done properly then buffet can look really messy and unappetising really quick. Maintaining temperature & ensuring food doesn’t dry out or stock is stored & rotated properly is very crucial.
- Risk of allergen control – It is imperative to make sure that residents with specific allergies are catered for. Buffet allows residents to choose any dishes that are offered and hence increases chances of allergic reaction, if not careful. At the same time, general hygiene can be an issue if not dealt with properly.
- Risk of burns & breakage – Due to dementia, walkers, wheelchairs or physical conditions, there is a risk involved with residents & staff safety around buffet set up. Hot Bain Marie, carrying plates around needs to be monitored in aged care environment
Food safety – Food safety parameters change a little with buffet set up due to longer meal service, longer temp. holding times & risk of cross-contamination. It is very crucial to ensure correct food safety procedures are followed and all necessary temp & other checks are performed efficiently.