This case study delves into the intricate dynamics of a catering supplier partnership, with a focused lens on resident wellbeing. A North London based care home reveals all about their seamless collaboration with Signature Dining and the benefits they have experienced so far.

What initiated the decision to begin work with Signature Dining?

Finding the right catering supplier was really important for us and for our residents. Our previous supplier, who we had worked with for years, had been very good and had looked after our 56 residents very well. But, we started to notice that staff in the kitchen were leaving and were being replaced by agency staff who weren’t interested in our residents and who were very expensive, and most importantly, as cost of food increased, there was a reduction in the quality of the meals and in the choice that was offered. After talking to our residents and their families, we decided that we needed to make a change and started looking for a new caterer.

Signature Dining came recommended to us by a local care home, who had been working with them for over a year. Our neighbouring home was very happy with their service, particularly their menus, food quality and they way in which they worked with the residents.

Tell us about the initial sign up to the partnership, how easy was it to implement the work of the company into the home?

During the first meeting with Paul, I told him all about the issues that we were having with the food. He suggested that his team visited the home to observe our service in order to make recommendations for us. This was really helpful, and highlighted things that we hadn’t really noticed ourselves, such as the amount of food that we were wasting at mealtimes. 

I gave Signature Dining our budget, and our expectation for the quality and variety of the menus. Paul and the team agreed our costs, and the process of transition started. The change over was very smooth, Signature started recruiting right away, as we particularly liked how they involved us in choosing people that suited the home. We were worried that the last of the catering team that we had might leave, but Signature were very good at supporting them too and the new staff have been a really good fit with them.  

What are the main benefits you have experienced since working with Signature Dining?

The main thing that we wanted was for the residents to be happy and they truly are. Signature monitor our food waste, and we have seen a big reduction in food that is thrown away. This is partly because the kitchen team prepare the right amount of food, and because the residents really enjoy their food, which is all cooked fresh with no frozen products. 

The kitchen is running smoothly, and is really clean and well ordered. Our last EHO inspection went really well, getting us back up to a five star rating, something that is really important for families who are looking for care for their loved ones. We don’t have any agency staff any more, all the kitchen vacancies were filled and we have a great team who are happy and who are now comfortable spending time talking to the residents and to us.  

Keeping track of costs, which used to be a real headache, has been made a lot easier for us. I have raised a couple of questions here and there, but these have been picked up really quickly by the management at Signature. 

What feedback have you received from the residents regarding the bespoke menus?

The best feedback that we’ve had are lots of empty plates! Our team spend a lot of time with the residents at mealtimes, we eat family style, meaning the carers and the residents eat together. We used to really struggle to encourage some residents to eat, but the new menus have made a real difference.

What’s been really lovely is that the food hasn’t just been about three meals a day. The kitchen are coming out and working with our activities lead to introduce cooking with residents. We’ve had some lovely fairy cakes and biscuits for afternoon tea, and even decorated our homemade gingerbread men at Christmas. 

Has working with Signature Dining made it easier to cater to different dietary needs in the home?

Absolutely! Our staff now feel happy and confident to give residents’ information to the kitchen, knowing that Signature’s system for managing dietary needs actually works. We have a resident with a really specific diet which is a big worry for their family. The team at Signature have met with the resident and his relatives and have really assured them that they can manage his diet. They have even written a menu just for him, with his daughter giving her input, even emailing his wife’s recipe for his favourite pudding – apple and blackberry crumble. 

The kitchen staff are much more confident too. They have had a lot of training on diets and managing allergies, and have stopped relying on brought in ready meals for residents who had an allergy or needed a special sugar free or fat free meal. Having everyone able to eat the same has made our residents much happier. This has been really important for our residents with Dysphagia.