Registered Dietitians play many key roles in your facility, and so does your food service team. In fact, both departments are so important to your community that one can’t exist without the other. As a team, they focus on regulatory standard compliance, safety, sanitation, and satisfaction. The Food Service Director (FSD) does not have the clinical skills that your Registered Dietitian (RD) does and your RD can’t manage the whole operation alone. When these teams all work together, they set each other (and your facility) up for success!

Your Registered Dietitian’s Role

A Registered Dietitian is the clinical piece of your food service program. The RD works with you and your community to keep your residents healthy. They’ll typically diagnose the needs of each patient and prescribe diet interventions if necessary.

This member of your team usually has expertise and educational training in both clinical skills and food service operations. While they do work mainly on the clinical side of the business, the RD should also work with the dining services team to ensure the department runs according to regulatory guidelines.

One of their top responsibilities is to provide guidance and care to residents with diseases. Proper diets can help these residents combat their diseases and live healthier, happier lives. Your RD can work with residents and their physicians to create a diet that accomplishes all of those goals. For each new patient, they typically complete a nutritional assessment in order to plan the right diet. This means they will take a look at everything your resident consumes, including food, drinks, medications, vitamins, and supplements, as well as the patient’s medical history, to come up with the right plan. We recommend working with dietitians who encourage liberalized diets. This means that they will also take your residents’ food preferences into account before creating a plan. A liberalized diet is less restrictive for your residents and allows them to eat the food they like but in moderation.

The RD also provides guidance to each resident about what actually makes up a healthy diet. A good dietitian will provide a comprehensive education that allows your community members to make healthy choices even after they’ve left your facility. They’ll also keep records of how the recommended diets are impacting your residents and report the results. Depending on the health needs of the people in your community, you may be able to find a Dietitian that specializes in certain conditions, like heart issues or diabetes.

Your Food Service Director

The other half of your facility’s culinary operation is your Food Service Director. This person handles more of the day-to-day dining operations and management at your facility.  Once your Dietitian makes a recommendation for a patient, the FSD takes the order prescribed and executes the food and beverage service to support that order.

Another one of their top responsibilities is to manage the entire team of food service staff (the people responsible for executing the prescribed diets). The FSD will handle the scheduling, hiring, firing, and overall supervision of your team.

The Food Service Director also manages your kitchen’s inventory, develops relationships with suppliers, and orders food and/or supplies when needed. When coming up with menus, they need to make sure they’re aware of today’s food trends, technology advancements, cultural preferences, and local food producers. This is especially important for most facilities because there are often times where a resident’s family or friends are also eating in the cafeteria. Creating food that aligns with trends and preferences will attract these non-residents to your dining area and provide them with a satisfying meal.

Other duties of your FSD include managing complaints, keeping the kitchens and service areas clean, and sometimes coming up with creative food presentations.

How they work together

Both roles are responsible for working together to make sure residents needs are met and that regulations are followed. The Food Service Director will work with your facility’s Dietitian to create delicious, healthy menus that are right for your residents. By working together to provide healthier, satisfying options for your community, your RD and FSD can help your facility lower costs and reduce readmissions.

When a resident first arrives at your facility, your RD and FSD should collaborate to learn the resident’s food preferences. After that, the RD will assess and diagnose any special dietary needs, write the order, and then pass that along to your FSD. Once the food service team receives the order, they execute it for the resident. The dietitian and director should work together on following up with residents to ensure tray orders are accurate and that residents are eating and enjoying their meals.

There are many facilities where the Dietitians are not actively collaborating with the food service team. From what we’ve learned, most operations that lack this teamwork between the two departments eventually fail. Culinary Services Group always promotes collaboration between the clinical and operational staff in your community. While they are different disciplines, a united team will always produce better outcomes.

If your state survey results are lacking in compliance, safety, sanitation, and/or satisfaction, look no further than your current food service leadership. The Registered Dietitian and Food Service Director are critical components to a strong and compliant dining program. Watch the video below to learn more about how Culinary Services Group can help your facility recruit, train and retain the best leadership talent:


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