Your Table is Ready – Using Reservations in Senior Dining

Senior Communities use Reservations in Return to Communal Dining

It’s safe to call this the year of change for senior living communities, including for dining operations.

For many months, senior living dining rooms that once stood as the bustling heart of community life have been closed or quiet, as communities have limited dining to resident rooms during the COVID-19 pandemic. Only now are some communities starting to return to communal dining.

As this reopening occurs, communities are looking for ways to implement practices and policies that incorporate social distancing, restricted dining hours and limits on the numbers of residents who can be gathered in a dining room or seated together at a table.

In order to plan, implement and track new dining policies, senior communities need a way to reserve, seat and serve residents.

One place to turn for help is dining POS (point-of-sale) software, particularly programs that include reservation features.

Robust Reservation Capabilities a Must-Have

Effective senior dining reservations software must be customizable to each community, intuitive enough to allow staff to quickly and easily make and change reservations and powerful enough to handle hundreds of reservations each day for many months into the future. Key reservation features communities should look for in POS software include the ability to:

  • Assign seating times and capacity limits for each meal period
  • Take reservations by resident name
  • Capture resident contact information for confirmation and notifications
  • Set start time and duration of reservations for specific meals
  • Add, remove, change and combine patrons within a reservation
  • Seat patrons at a specific dining room table
  • View overall reservations, pacing and distribution by day and meal
  • Take reservations in advance

At eMenuCHOICE -- an award-winning POS solution built exclusively for senior living communities -- we worked with our customers to help them define these needs, then added these features to our software. eMenuCHOICE customers now have easy access to managing reservations within the same simple-to-use interface they’re already using to serve residents.

Beyond the Dining Room

While the need for reservation features may be greatest in senior dining, they can be used in other ways by senior communities as well. Ideally, staff should be able to use dining POS software to create and track reservations for salons, spas, pubs, patios, stores and fitness/wellness centers. Setting pacing limits will allow administrators and event organizers to manage both the total number of attendees and the different time slots in which attendees can attend and participate.

Reservations can also be used to schedule transportation services, apartment cleanings and resident visitation as allowed by the community. As social distancing or crowd-size regulations change, communities can easily update dining room capacities and reservation pacing periods to accommodate community policies.

As long as the software is set to assign each transaction to an individual resident, the result should be a seamless and efficient process from start to finish for staff and residents, even as external circumstances change.

Next Steps

As senior communities move to reopen communal dining, most if not all will need to create new policies and procedures to handle the “new normal” in senior dining.

Dining POS software that includes reservations capabilities can be a major help in not only planning for but also executing these new policies. Check with your dining POS provider today to see if they can help you with dining room reservations that will help your residents return to one of their favorite parts of the day -- dining in a group with family, friends and neighbors!

This article first appeared in the September 14th, 2020 edition of Senior Dining News. 

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