Both chefs and residents are pleased with restaurant style service and variety of menu options.
When Executive Chef Richard Weise promotes one of his employees, he does so with a level of confidence that only comes from walking in their shoes.
Weise began his culinary career as a high school employee washing dishes at Ann's Choice, an Erickson Living developed and managed retirement communities in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Over the past 14 years, he has held every hourly dining services position along the path to executive chef. With that confidence on his back, he has built a strong team of culinary professionals who put their customers first and create an exceptional dining experience day in and day out for the 2,000 people who call Ann's Choice home.
"Having held all the positions, I know all the roles of my hourly employees, so I know how to do their job as well as mine," Weise says. In his role as executive chef, he uses the experiences he learned along the way to gain a deep understanding of how to best serve Ann's Choice residents.
"Ever since I was a line cook, I made a point to go out and get to know the residents on a one-on-one basis. Now as executive chef, it's key to the operation. I can make menus around what I know the residents like," he explains.
When Erickson Living transitioned from batch cooking in all of its community restaurants to Signature Dining—or a la carte cooking—about three years ago, Weise found even more momentum and ability to please his customers.
"Our dining program's cook-to-order process meets the desires of today's residents and positions our program as a market differentiator for future residents," says Dining Director Chris Babst. "Unlike other dining programs in the industry, we prepare fresh, made-to-order, resident-focused menu offerings; executed at the moment of service that personalizes the culinary experience. We embrace a culture of Operational Excellence – one that creates an environment in every kitchen and dining venue where employees have pride in the food they are preparing and serving."
Weise and his team adopted an educational mindset and it's proven successful. "We do kitchen tours every Monday. They can sign up, and we explain the entire process. We tour the dining room, wait station, and kitchen, so they can see the entire process and how everything is made fresh to order. Now they're able to see why we went from food coming out in 2 to 3 minutes to food coming out in 17 to 18 minutes and why that's beneficial."
Signature Dining has not only been welcomed by residents, but it's also empowered the cooks and awakened their creativity and diversify the menu.
"We now have 32 menu items, and each restaurant's menu is different," Weise says of the community's five dining venues.
Menus change seasonally and include dishes like shrimp scampi, filet mignon, meatloaf, whole roasted chicken, chicken Diane, chicken marsala, sandwiches, entrée salads, pizzas, soups, and at least two vegetarian items. They diversify menus with specials like Moroccan lamb stew, curried vegetables, or wild mushroom risotto.
Resident Mimi Travis says there's plenty of variety, even for someone as selective as herself. "I'm a very picky eater, and I always manage to find something to eat," says Travis, who typically eats breakfast in her apartment, lunch at Banners Café, and uses her flexible dining meal plan for dinner in the Garden Room, Signatures, or Fireside restaurants. One meal a day is included in each resident's monthly service package.
Another way Weise and his team add diversity and variety to the dining experience at Ann's Choice is to host special events like a New Year's brunch, special holiday menus, and unique desserts based on the time of year.
Twice yearly, they throw an "elegant evening" with live music, dancing, and a high-end menu. "After service, I'll go out and dance with the residents," Weise says. "It's something they look forward to."
For Travis, it's just another example of the personal touch that makes living at Ann's Choice such a joy.
"I love living here," she says. "I'm always recommending Ann's Choice."
For more information about career opportunities at Ann's Choice, please visit https://jobs.ericksonliving.com. Visitors can register for email alerts about job postings by field of expertise and location.
About Ann's Choice: Ann's Choice, one of 20 continuing care retirement communities developed and managed by Erickson Living®, is situated on a scenic 103-acre campus in Warminster, Pennsylvania. The community is located in Bucks County and is home to nearly 2,000 residents. Additional information about Ann's Choice can be found at AnnsChoice.com.
Photo: Ann's Choice Executive Chef Richard Weise
Written by Julia Collins