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8 Facts About Retirement Living Servers

With the baby boomers retiring there are now more people in retirement homes than ever before. Statistics Canada projects that by 2036, those aged 65 and older will account for one-quarter of the population.  Many seniors choose to live in retirement homes because it allows them to live independently while receiving the support they need.

Working in a retirement home is a unique experience compared to working at any other place. Firstly, because seniors live at retirement homes as a staff member you will see the same smiles everyday. You get to know families and sometimes you can even become a big part of their daily lives.

1.    Retirement living servers serve meals to seniors

Retirement living servers serve food and beverages to seniors and guests while creating pleasant dining experiences. These professionals greet and seat customers as they enter the restaurant and take their menu orders. After the dishes have been prepared by the kitchen staff the servers will bring the meals out. As well, servers set-up dining rooms for meal services which includes rolling napkins and setting up menus.

Working as a dining sever in a senior living home is a unique experience because servers will see the same guests over and over. Relationships develop between the guests and the servers- a highlight of this job.

On top of developing relationships with guests, servers always maintain a clean restaurant. They clean stations and tables by setting up and striping tables based on company policies. As well, servers wash, clean and sort dishes, cutlery, fixtures and other equipment used for food service.

Servers are required to know daily menus and all the ingredients that make up these meals. Guests may have preferences or allergies and servers should be able to accommodate these based on their knowledge of the menu. Furthermore, a good server will have also tasted everything on the menu so they have a good grasp of things.

2.    Retirement living servers do not need a formal education

No formal education is needed for someone looking to become a retirement living dining server. Usually retirement living homes only require the successful completion of high school with previous experience working in the hospitality industry. However, this occupation is in high demand so many places are willing to train the right candidate. An excellent part-time job for students or those recently graduated from high school!

Server training is typically available on the job because every retirement home has their own restaurant policy in place. During training you will be taught how to clean glassware, greet customers, take orders and other important tasks for this job.

Servers however are typically required to be certified with a valid food safety certificate or equivalent. However, if students would like to pursue formal education there are some colleges which offer degrees in hotel tourism. These degrees help to develop practical restaurant skills while exploring various areas of the dining room. They learn how to communicate professionally in a hospitality setting, handle difficult situations, prepare drinks and a multitude of other things.

3.    Retirement living servers need to be able to work under pressure

When working as a dining room server you need to be organized and work well under strict time constraints. During a dinner service things can get pretty hectic due to the high amount of customer orders. These professionals know how to organize their work flow so that every one gets their orders on time while still providing excellent customer service.

4. Retirement living servers work with high degrees of cleanliness

Dining room servers need to maintain high levels of cleanliness at all times for various reasons: it ensures food safety, it increases customer satisfaction and it shows that a restaurant cares about its customers. This is especially important in the senior community due to their higher susceptibility to food borne illnesses.

These professionals properly clean dining areas by thoroughly sanitizing the surface areas customer’s come in contact with, such as bar tops, table tops and chairs. They pay attention to the details such as cleaning condiment bottles and menus as these too harbor bacteria. On top of that dining room servers clean and sanitize carpets, tables, chairs, condiment containers, and equipment used in the dining room.

Finally, throughout a shift they will remove used or soiled plates, utensils, glasses and linens from the dining room. Having clean tables helps to improve customer experiences throughout service.

5.    Retirement living servers know menus

In retirement living homes there are many residents with special dietary needs. For example, some residents can only eat foods which are soft because they have chewing and swallowing problems. Servers know restaurant menus inside and out so they can accommodate these needs.

6.    Retirement living servers need to have empathy

Working as a dining room server is a unique type of restaurant job. Unlike other places you will see the same faces repeatedly. This means that you can build deep, meaningful relationships with the seniors and even become a key person in a senior’s life.

Dining room servers have empathy and understand the needs of residents. They understand that different residents have different needs such as some residents needing more time to make their menu selections. To accommodate, servers will work with a high level of customer service and empathy

7. Retirement living servers may assist with special events

The dining room scene has changed a lot in retirement living homes with the baby boomers retiring. One thing that seniors love is having multiple theme celebrations and holiday parties. These events not only serve food but also set the scene for socializing – a time which might be difficult for the older generation. Dining room waitstaff will serve at these events giving them a break from the typical restaurant experience.

In addition, many retirement homes offer dining experience choices to residents where they can host their own events. Seniors may have staff wait on them allowing seniors the chance to invite their families to come to where they live. A bonus is that they don’t have to have their families worrying about doing dishes and cleaning up.

8. Retirement living servers have physical stamina, a good memory and the ability to work with people

As with any occupation there are certain sets of skills which will aid you better than others. For retirement living servers these skills include:

Physical stamina- Although having physical stamina isn’t necessarily a skill, it is important that you are physically capable to perform this job. Dining servers spend the entire shifts on their feet- cleaning, running around from table to table and speaking with customers. Servers need to invest in a good pair of shoes!

 Good memory- Servers need to have a good memory for people, names, menu specials and ingredients. Seniors attending the dining hall want to feel special and there is nothing better then being warmly welcomed by name by your server.

•  People skills- People can, at times, be demanding and even rude. A good waiter should be able to meet the demands of the customer, even when they’re not being entirely reasonable.


Author: Veronica Hislop – Veronica is a Master’s thesis student in the Molecular Science program at Ryerson University. She is also a career partner with FoodGrads and has work experience in the food processing industry working both in R&D and QA.

Currently, she is performing research on water-in-oil emulsions stabilized by fat crystals. When she is not following her scientific endeavours you can find her enjoying Japanese anime, manga and video games.


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