Delivering the wow factor in care home catering
Meet Anwar Kajee, Head of Hospitality at Country Court Care. Anwar has many years of experience in the care and hospitality industries and is dedicated to revolutionising care home catering using his unique approach, taking one meal at a time!
Working within the care sector, we have the privilege and duty to do our very best to provide exceptional care to some of the more vulnerable people in society. As Head of Hospitality for Country Court Care, it is my responsibility to ensure we provide high quality, nutritious, tasty meals for all our residents.
The challenges of Care Home Catering
When I joined Country Court Care in 2017, together with my team I undertook a complete review of the food service within our homes. We found that, as in many care environments, our catering teams were doing a great job preparing good food, creating menus with guest consultation, using seasonal ingredient and obtaining feedback.
However, we found that food presentation was lacking and often an afterthought. There were many reasons for this, staffing levels being one. Some homes would send the food trolley filled with freshly prepared food for the care team to plate up in the dining room. Care teams are highly trained to deliver personal care to our residents and have to juggle a never-ending task list on a daily basis so presenting food was not a priority for them. Our Chefs, however, have many years of experience within the catering industry. They took a lot of trouble to plan menus with their Home Manager and residents, order the food, take delivery, store it safely, prepare the ingredients and cook it. They found it dis-heartening to not have the dish served as they would have liked or imagined.
I always tell our Kitchen Teams to ask themselves every day, are we happy to serve this meal to our own mothers or fathers and would we be satisfied with this meal for ourselves as professionals within our industry?
Striving for excellence
One of the challenges to providing great service and food is finding passionate staff who mirror our expectations of 5-star hotel style service within the care sector. Many Chefs feel that going into the care sector is where you go to wind down, but this isn’t the case nowadays. Perceptions are starting to change as we live in an ever-aging population where people’s expectations are a lot higher, as they should be! Our Chef’s challenge is to keep residents excited about coming to the dining table for their meals, every single day. It can be difficult to keep the creativity flowing, so we’ve streamlined the Chef’s tasks and processes to give them the time and resource to be able to achieve our vision.
We now are proud to say that in 28 of our 32 care homes our Chefs plate every meal with care for our residents, exactly what you’d expect from a 5-star restaurant. Being satisfied isn’t where we want to be, we want to always strive for excellence and the Country Court Care core values (Courage, Accountability, Responsibility & Excellence) motivate all of our staff to achieve more.
Sharing best practice
Country Court Care Chairman, Abdul Kachra, likens our care homes to a cruise liner where your every need is catered for, he constantly tells me that our residents deserve the very best. To achieve this ‘Cruise Liner’ level of service we started with a simple Chefs forum which enabled chefs to share what they were currently creating for our guests. We then held our ‘Meal Showreel’ competition, giving chefs the opportunity to showcase their creations not only internally but also to the public on the company’s social media pages. Both these simple platforms inspired the teams and bred some healthy competition. Our Chef Forums are still going, and we will be holding our third competition later this year. Each year I get more and more impressed with their creations.
The Care Sector as a whole is starting to recognise Chef’s work with industry awards and accolades where great Chefs are acknowledged for the amazing work they do. Within Country Court Care we have our ‘Meal Showreel’ competition and now our recent ‘Come Dine With Me’ competition. ‘Come Dine With Me’ saw homes showcasing a complete hospitality and private dining experience. Residents were offered the opportunity to experience the service offered in neighbouring care homes and vote for their favourite meal.
Delivering the ‘wow’ factor
We have now appointed a Development Chef to keep supporting our teams along with regional Catering support teams to ensure consistency across all our homes. I am extremely proud of our Catering teams across the country and I love the reaction I get from people I meet when I show them some of our Chef’s work. They cannot believe it is served within a care home and ‘wow’ is a word I’m starting to hear on a daily basis!
I have now created Instagram page (@Caring_With_Food) to share some of the meals our fantastic Chefs create – take a look and let me know what you think!