Rob Burcher, head of hospitality at Barchester Healthcare, oversees the catering at over 200 homes, including the latest opening Wadhurst Manor, in East Sussex. He spoke to Janie Stamford.
What are the unique challenges of catering in the care sector? With around 60 residents in most of our homes, we need to provide a varied choice at each mealtime to meet their individual preferences. We've developed an extensive alternative menu to provide greater choice and involve residents in these decisions, and a selection of items are available throughout the evening should there be a request.
How can food support the health of residents? Barchester's hospitality team focus on creating a great dining experience, catering for each individual's needs and cascading this approach through every home. A lot of time is put into menu creation and it is essential that we constantly respond to our residents' preferences when it comes to the food we serve. Striking a balance between nutritional content and taste is an important factor. A resident's tastes can change over a short period of time so it is important that care plans are updated.
You come from a hotel background. Why move into care catering? I had heard that Barchester was committed to investing in their staff at all levels and disciplines. Working for a company that puts quality first in everything it does was a huge draw for me. In a hotel you have a transient clientele and I enjoy the opportunity to really build a rapport with residents and see familiar faces.
What do you love most about your job? I love the fact that no day is ever the same and that we, as a team, make a difference. One day I could be inducting a new chef and then the next, supporting a new care home like Wadhurst. Setting up a new home is a busy time and it is very rewarding to see the new team forming and bonding.
What does the future look like for care catering? I believe there will be an even greater focus on nutritional awareness. We are looking at ways to nutritionally analyse our menus. We believe every home is individual and should reflect the likes and dislikes of the local community.