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Too Few Cooks in the Kitchen: 5 Tips for Managing Labor Shortages in Senior Living

Katie Wulkow
Katie Wulkow | August 13, 2021

We’ve all heard the phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen.” However, recently there have been “not enough cooks in the kitchen” throughout the food service industry. Staff shortages are widespread. This creates large challenges for senior living communities, who rely on kitchen staff to carry out their menu for residents every day. For seniors, food is not only essential to their health, it is oftentimes the most pleasurable part of a resident’s day – from the act of eating to the socialization that takes place in the dining hall.

How can you continue to provide this essential and pleasurable experience for senior living residents while faced with a limited number of staff?

Here are five tips to adapt your assisted living menu to manage staffing shortages:

  1. Simplify your menu.
    If second choices are offered for your residents at mealtime, consider adjusting these to be easy-to-prepare items (such as soup/sandwich, fully cooked beef patties or fully cooked chicken breasts).

  2. Incorporate convenient heat and serve items or prepare and freeze items ahead of time.
    Convenient items for reheating include lasagna and casseroles.

  3. Incorporate items and recipes that can be offered or easily adapted for texture modified diets.
    Using items that work well for more than one diet type saves time since you don’t have to prepare different offerings for each diet. Items that work well for different diet types include: sloppy joes/maid rites, meat salad sandwiches, cooked vegetables and canned fruit.

  4. Plan menus to include speed scratch recipes that are easy to prepare.
    Focus on a few key ingredients that allow flexibility (such as cake mixes) that can be used for cake, coffee cakes and cobblers or sauce mixes that can be easily prepared and adapted for different tastes.

  5. Shorten your menu cycle.
    It may be necessary to cut back to a 1-2 week menu cycle to manage inventory and focus on items that can be easily prepared.

Need more ideas to tackle labor shortages?

View our Menu Plan for Limited Staffing on our Customer Website under Mpower - Menus

View the Webinar COVID Quickinar: Cross-Training Food Service Solutions on our Customer Website under Education – Webinars On Demand


Questions or comments about this article? Feel free to contact us!


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