Research shows that dining area cleanliness is a major predictor of engagement and satisfaction among residents.

Holleran, the nation’s premier research and consulting firm serving aging service providers, has discovered a key insight for improving resident satisfaction and engagement when it comes to dining services. A clean dining area is the most important culinary factor contributing to improved satisfaction and engagement – even outweighing the quality and the temperature of the food!

The Holleran team discovered that survey results showed a significant relationship between the degree to which a resident feels the community’s dining room is clean and their engagement and satisfaction with the community. Specifically, researchers found this relationship among all of Holleran’s engagement domains; that is to say, that greater dining room cleanliness scores predict overall satisfaction, voice, connection, fulfillment, and well-being. Remarkably, for every 1 point improvement in this area (on a 1 to 5 scale), there is a 12% increase in overall resident engagement.

“If I were the executive director of a campus, this discovery would give me clear direction,” says Katelyn McCauley, a research analyst and project manager with Holleran. “It can be costly and time-consuming to drastically change the menu, hire a new chef, or remodel a restaurant. While all of those things may be necessary in the long run, communities could start making a difference, this very moment, by paying extra attention to the cleanliness of their dining rooms. Perhaps it is time for a spring deep clean!”

“I’m actually not surprised by these results,” notes Jonathan Forry, one of Holleran’s research and data specialists. “No one wants to be served a beautiful steak on a soiled tablecloth, while looking at stains on the carpet! Think about it in terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; if the environment in which someone is eating isn’t safe and clean, they aren’t going to care if the garnish is colorful.”

One organization that instinctively understands this is Immanuel Communities, of Omaha, NE. They scored in the top 10 percent of the Holleran Benchmark for factors relating to dining room cleanliness. “How can we expect to do the really big or important things if we have not yet mastered and paid great detail to the little things first?” says Mark Iverson, Vice President of Immanuel Community Operations. “I know that our team can serve amazing culinary creations, but if the atmosphere and service don’t match, then what is on the plate won’t even matter. Paying attention to the cleanliness of your dining room costs nothing and makes a world of difference.”

This discovery was made possible thanks to Holleran’s proprietary benchmark, which includes the opinions and views of more than 96,000 Independent Living residents, all surveyed within the last 24 months. By analyzing this data, Holleran’s researchers are able to find correlations that both reinforce commonly held beliefs and shatter preconceived notions about living in a retirement community.