So there are a lot of questions coming our way concerning the new dining spaces, the closing of the old spaces, what the transition will look like and what the end product will be. Most of you realize that I don't have all the answers, and the ones I do have are subject to change but I do feel like being transparent is the best option. As with any construction projects, timelines are subject to change and as operators we only can control so much. Libby and I did meet with the AVP of Facilities Management and Construction on last week, and we met with the Food Committee to get reactions and suggestions. I thought it would be a good time to bring you all up to speed as much as we can. I crafted this entry as the challenges we are facing and what we are doing about it, this format helps me organize my thoughts but if anyone wants further detail, I am happy to discuss it in person.
The Challenge: for fifteen years, it has been obvious that we need multiple outlets to effectively take care of our residents. There is no separate space for casual dining versus upscale, for having a cocktail before dinner, for having a slice of pie and cup of coffee whenever you feel like it. Some people simply don't want to make a reservation every day. We need more variety for our residents and more choices for what and when you want to dine. All other Vi Living communities have multiple outlets, and it's time we modernized.
The Solution: we are expanding our dining rooms, adding more seats, enclosing the patio, and creating separate and distinct spaces for different dining experiences.
Our casual space will be called The 1859 and it will become our largest dining space. Its future footprint begins near the present entrance to the dining room but will also include what is now the Dad Clark Patio (which will be enclosed). This menu will be simplified for a faster, more casual, but still locally-centric, gourmet experience. I expect things like soups, salads, simple entrées like meatloaf, roasted chicken, sandwiches, pasta etc. Probably the biggest menu, but still composed and very similar to what we have. It is likely that reservations will be unnecessary, or at least less difficult but I don't want to state that definitively until we see how it works. Keep in mind that the kitchen is the same, and that we can only produce so much food at a time.
Our more elegant menus will be offered in a separate space-the Mt. Rosa Dining Room, with a different expectation of service, and where we can showcase our cuisine and elevated dining service. This is a "white tablecloth" fine dining experience, with items like rack of lamb, Filet Mignon, prix fixe menus and the like. For residents wanting the full multi-course experience, lingering over dessert and an after dinner drink-- this will be a great choice.
The Dad Clark bar is intended for cocktails and socializing, food offerings will be limited and not intended for a full meal. I'm thinking "Colorado Tapas" as a theme but that may change. This outlet is for having a drink before dinner, trying a new cocktail, and maybe having a small bite. During the day, I expect this area to be more laid back and casual, a great place to meet for coffee.
There is a Private Dining Room in what is now the North Dining room. This space will be for private parties and dinners. This space will also be where we showcase buffets and brunches as there will be an entrance and exit and traffic can flow easily.
We are also introducing a new food dispensary in what is now the Hunt Club, as an all- day dining option, that can be utilized on-demand. The new outlet is being called "The Dispensary" until we come up with a more permanent name. It will begin construction on July 10. Assuming three to four weeks of work, we are tentatively expecting to open up sometime in mid-August.
During all this, the options to take home will be upgraded to something new and exciting, with smaller or larger portions, greater variety, introducing the more customizable offerings to be had in the future Dispensary. As I said, the name is still pending. Personally I would like to see a Colorado themed name to match the other outlets.
The Challenge: from the time we opened, the takeout program has been the biggest source of resident challenges and opportunities in the food and beverage operation. Honestly, if I get ten complaints in a week, eight of them involve a takeout order. With a large menu, including multiple choices, changes, modifiers and special requests it has always been fairly unworkable. Presentation is a problem for some, temperature of food for others, accuracy of orders, spillage, number of items, portion sizes, recyclables, food safety, all of these and more are some very passionate concerns that residents have brought to my attention. From a staffing perspective, the takeout menus are a nightmare of complexity, they are too large, and too many people try to parlay a single meal credit into a full refrigerator of food. It's unrealistic and has been for some time. Just this week we removed an item due to the level of anger and frustration from a resident. I want you to know that we have heard your feedback and are responding.
The Solution: We are opening an outlet where you can order exactly what appeals to you, and leave what doesn't. There will be an extensive menu, some of which will be the same as items in the dining room but most of which will be exclusive to the outlet. The room is open pretty much all day-- although we have yet to establish the actual hours of operation. You will go in, whenever you choose, pick out items you like such as grilled salmon, macaroni and cheese, salads, cheeses, cookies etc. The items are priced individually, the same as we do at breakfast. They are all cold, with heating instructions for each as needed. Get enough for one meal or stock up for a few days, it's up to you. Do you like the cookies? Order a dozen. do you prefer soda in a can? Perfect, so do we. Like a particular soup? How about a quart to keep in the freezer? In this way we can customize people's dining experience to what they want and don't want. The items are right there in front of you, if something doesn't appeal then you don't order that item. Is there a cost associated? Yes there is, of course but the dining room is always an option with what will be three distinct menus. This is merely an option that residents can choose or not, in the same way that Breakfast is handled now. Discussions of costs to residents, use of meal credits and the like will be presented to the Finance committee .
We expect the Dispensary to be open by mid- August, allowing a couple of weeks to get processes in place it should be pretty well fully functional by early September. We will take this opportunity to change our packaging, as we are starting this new venture, and will be looking at recyclable and compostable options. I am seeking feedback from the Sustainability Committee on exactly what those options are. Takeout will be still available, but will be reduced as the new outlet comes online. I'm not sure how far we will take this but as I mentioned, with as many resident complaints and feedback as we have received over the years, I expect traditional take out to be changing and the Dispensary will be our main outlet for at home dining. We will see in the end how large the menu choices in all four outlets are I know you have a dozen more questions about how this will work, as soon as we have clearer details we will address them, and of course I fully expect that whatever template we start with will change as we hear resident input and adapt as needed.
The Challenge: When we shut down the dining rooms, where and what will we eat? What about the holidays? How long will this take? Will chef have any hair left when this is finished? Good questions, here goes.
The Solution: to make this achievable, we will be doing the transition in phases. As I said earlier, the Dispensary should be fully operational by early September. Work on the dining rooms will probably not actually begin until late September or so. At first, only the patio will be worked on. This should have minimal impact on the residents other than some noise and some blockage of the view. There is some ceiling work in the Bar that needs to be done, so we may lose much of the seating in that area, but keeping the actual bar and the seven or eight seats there. Here's the good news: we will not actually close off the Dining spaces until after the holidays. Yes. Let me repeat; we will be open in the dining room until at least January.
When we do fully close the dining spaces, what we will do is some form of service, probably buffets, in the Game Room for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We expect this to take about ten weeks, The Art Room will be our base of operations, so that space will be limited and I expect some dinners and brunch to spill over into the Centennial room but for the most part exercise classes, lectures, and special events in the Centennial room will continue with only minimal changes. Menus will be published in advance, just as we have done in the past. Keep in mind that we will have the Dispensary fully operational by then, so if buffets aren't your thing there is always an alternative menu available every day.
As always, I try to be as open and transparent as I can be without over promising or prematurely giving details that may change. As I said, we have met with the Food Committee to begin the conversation, and I anticipate meeting with Building and Grounds as well as the Finance committee as soon as it is practical. Please feel free to call me with further questions!