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Alternative dining venues

April 1, 2010
by LuAnn Thoma-Holec, ASID
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A different way to look at eating, socializing

Whether you call an alternative dining venue an Internet café, a bistro, or an ice cream parlor, residents in long-term care communities love these increasingly popular amenities. They are the fastest-growing specialty areas in both new construction and existing communities.

Besides creating a social gathering place, we know there also may be a significant health benefit for community residents. As people age, they often eat less, which can lead to undernourishment and a variety of other health concerns. Seniors in environments that encourage eating may actually consume more when they have the opportunity to socialize with others in an attractive, inviting dining venue.

By creating spaces that encourage people to come together, designers involved with long-term care communities facilitate socializing, increase participation in community activities, and give residents a convenient place to meet with other residents and family members.

Team approach

The design of a well-executed bistro requires a team approach to determine the specific amenities to include. Design and management team members should consider the following:

  • Will the bistro be operated by staff members, volunteers, or self service?

  • What products will be available?

  • Will offerings supplement an existing meal plan or will items be sold separately?

  • Coffee is a must, but what about espresso and lattes?

  • How about a wood-fired grill for made-to-order pizzas?

  • Paninis, homemade soup, special desserts, wine, sandwiches, salads, pastries, and freshly-baked cookies are all options.

The simplest bistro is a hospitality counter providing an area for residents to enjoy coffee, espresso, cookies, fresh fruit, and juices. These are typically included within the resident's monthly fees. This self-serve counter may be available on a 24/7 basis or at specific times throughout the day.

In contrast, a full-service experience requires a staff member or a volunteer to be at the bistro to serve residents. Items may be made to order and/or in a visible cooler. This more extensive bistro requires code compliance with the health department and possibly other state or local jurisdictions. Temperature-controlled storage for specialty wine, tap beer, and special liquors may be included.

Villa hermosa bistro, tucson, arizona, a full-service, fully staffed bistro
Villa Hermosa Bistro, Tucson, Arizona, a full-service, fully staffed bistro

La siena bistro
La Siena Bistro

At a glance…

Adding a bistro to your facility's dining options provides health benefits to residents while generating greater marketing appeal.

LuAnn holec, asid
LuAnn Holec, ASID

A visit to a successful bistro should be exciting and invigorating with appealing and comfortable seating. While cleanliness is demanded, aromas may be a valued part of the dining experience. Effective design ensures adequate and flexible lighting for reading, games, TV viewing, and conversation.

Best location

The best location for an active bistro is usually near the main lobby. Here residents can enjoy outside views enhanced by the activities of arriving visitors as well as staff interaction. This location provides added value as the perfect marketing tool for demonstrating an active, healthy environment to prospective residents.

We believe the best bistro designs are cozy, with an unpretentious atmosphere and lots of room to people watch, read the newspaper, surf the Net, watch TV, or just have a conversation with friends and neighbors. This means wireless Internet access for personal laptops and perhaps a computer lab as well as high-definition televisions complete with Wii, CDs, DVDs, and other “cyber stuff.”

Simply think of your favorite coffee shop experience and re-create the same atmosphere for the enjoyment of the senior population. If designed and programmed correctly, a variation of the bistro theme is suitable for every level of care including higher memory care and skilled nursing communities. D

As principal owner of Thoma-Holec Design LLC, Ms. Holec implements all design criteria and management for senior care community projects. She is an Arizona Assisted Living Federation of America board member, a past national director-at-large of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), past president of the Arizona North Chapter (ASID), and a member of numerous other professional organizations. Ms. Holec is credited with the prestigious Designer of Distinction, five silver awards from the National Council of Senior Housing and numerous ASID Awards of Excellence in hospitality, model merchandising, and senior care. She has earned Certified Active Adult Specialist in Housing status.

To send your comments to the editor, e-mail mhrehocik@vendomegrp.com.

Design Environments for Aging 2010 2010 March;():14-15

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