Catering to the Community
The challenge of creating fresh, exciting meals each day can be daunting at a senior living facility. Not so at Milwaukee-area’s Regency Senior Communities, where director of dining Allan McPhedran’s catering operation not only re-ignites his staff’s culinary passion, but brings in extra revenue and a potential new wave of residents. His secret? Scratch-made events from start to finish.
The mantra of putting the customer first is the only way to do business for McPhedran and his dedicated Regency team. The catering process, which traditionally starts with pre-set menus, is turned on its head with a “freestyle” approach offering unlimited options.
“We don’t adapt the menu to the customer, but create a brand new one each time. Asking what they want rather than putting everyone in the same box is what sets us apart,” he explains.
With degrees from Monte Carlo Hotel School and Lausanne Hotel School in Switzerland, as well as stints at New York’s Plaza Hotel and a large Wisconsin medical center, McPhedran has the expertise to fulfill just about any customer request. Even more important, he can count on his kitchen crew, which is skilled and flexible, to do the same.
“We can put together a plated dinner, a buffet, a cocktail party, pretty much anything, except maybe sushi,” he laughs. “The team has the culinary knowledge to do this well, and it also challenges them not to do the same meals over and over.”
So, when a physician-resident, originally from the Philippines, asked the team to collaborate on a buffet dinner featuring authentic pork stew and rice, McPhedran was delighted to make it happen. Likewise, when the son and daughter of a resident who passed away requested a memorial cocktail hour for 100, he quickly created a simple, yet elegant spread, based entirely on their preferences, highlighting Wisconsin cheeses and sausages.
“We don’t adapt the menu to the customer, but create a brand new one each time. Asking what they want rather than putting everyone in the same box is what sets us apart.”
– Allan McPhedran
“We plotted out the menu within 15 minutes and eliminated a great deal of stress for them at a difficult time,” he recalls.
Last Christmas, when a group of carolers returned for a dinner celebration, McPhedran was prepared to make it even more special. Knowing they preferred a less spicy meal than the previous year’s taco buffet, he provided a completely different experience with a plated chicken parmesan entrée and show-stopping flourless chocolate cake, which was housemade to save on costs. At $3 per person, McPhedran kept it tasty and reasonably priced.
He gives the same careful attention to Regency residents, who’ve become enthusiastic boosters. The classic Friday fish fry was given a fine-dining touch with an amuse-bouche, featuring treats like crabmeat or shrimp. Attendance soared from 20 to 70 residents and guests weekly, thanks to the upscale choices and addition of a live piano player. He also holds monthly residents’ meetings to chew over issues ranging from sodium reduction to finding the perfect pizza crust, and retooled menus to offer more premium choices, such as Swedish meatballs with lingonberries.
“The residents love it and talk about it,” McPhedran exclaims. “They talk a lot about the food!”