Case Study: VSA Group
Making efficiencies whilst maintaining the highest quality
apetito partners with VSA to provide the ultimate dining experience
The VSA Group has several residential and non-residential care homes, employing more than 600 people across 40 services.
John Booth, Chief Operating Officer of VSA, emphasises the passion that his team has for delivering outstanding care to enable each resident within VSA care homes to enjoy life.
Mealtimes are no exception to this and are an important focal point of each day.
“Food is one of life’s pleasures” says John “and we know how much our residents enjoy mealtimes.
“As care home operators know only too well, catering can be very complex within residential homes.
“There were several challenges within the kitchen which we historically faced.
“For years we had cooks, as we liked the label of ‘fresh’ - but alongside the promise of ‘fresh’ came unpredictability.
“It‘s not easy to recruit quality cooks to ensure consistency and guarantee cover. There was also the question of food waste and portion control. Sometimes families will understandably take their loved ones out for lunch at the last minute, meaning it’s hard to cater accurately for unpredictable numbers. Inflation also impacted on the commercial side with product/supplier shortages and rapidly increasing costs and administration complexity was increasing all the time. Covid simply accelerated these challenges.”
John’s team underwent a review of its catering operation and decided to change how VSA approached mealtimes. Central to its decision was business continuity.
VSA have a passion for delivering outstanding care to each resident
Catering within residential homes can be complex with the unpredictability of fresh meals, food waste and portion control.
VSA underwent a review of its catering operation to change their approach to mealtimes
Making a change!
After the review, VSA decided to adopt a new stance, whilst ensuring that the person-centred approach was retained at every level.
VSA now works in partnership with the UK’s leading care homes meals provider, apetito, which provides prepared meals which can be cooked easily in VSA’s kitchens.
John explains that working with apetito means that not only is there is lots of choice and the meals are delicious, high quality, and loved by residents, but his team can rest easy in the knowledge that the supply of meals are guaranteed.
“During Covid we had a big concern around business continuity. Having apetito meant that we didn’t need to worry.
“In fact, during this period, we simply increased our back-up stock, so we had a contingency which gave us added reassurance”.
VSA adopted a new stance to catering with a person-centred approach
apetito provides delicious, high quality prepared meals with lots of choice and guaranteed supply
VSA had no worries regarding their food supply over covid.
Significant savings on labour, waste, and ease of service.
“Since changing to apetito we’ve seen real benefits when it comes to saving on labour, the ease of mealtimes, and importantly, the confidence and reassurance we have that our meals are covered in a way that is a quality offering that can be delivered with no stress.
“We no longer need cooks– we have streamlined catering roles and created two catering managers across four sites supported by café assistants within each home.
“There is less admin, less invoices, less suppliers, less people to manage, and this alone has removed a big stress factor including the removal of expensive agency staff. Our team can now focus on front line care.
“Furthermore, we have reduced our waste significantly as our portion control is now far more effective.”
Choice has been another unexpected benefit in terms of offering residents a wider range of meals and desserts from over 200 options.
“Previously, we had limited choice. It’s also fair to say that we had limited understanding around the nutritional content of meals in terms of having accurate nutritional content at our fingertips.
“Now, nutritional content is all controlled and managed for us! We know exactly what is in each meal and how that relates to
“It’s easy to manage our residents’ diets effectively and we can now provide exact details for the inspectorate and set calorie
levels where they need to be for each resident”.
VSA have seen real benefits with cost savings on labour, ease at mealtimes and no stress in the quality of the offering
Choice has been an unexpected benefit for residents
It is much easier to manage residents' diets
“We are at the forefront of dementia-friendly dining”
John says that in the past, VSA would have liquidised foods for residents with swallowing difficulties – a condition known as dysphagia.
“We now use apetito’s texture modified range where our residents can enjoy specially moulded meals, which are cleverly designed to look – and taste - exactly like the meal they are replicating, whilst meeting the IDDSI framework.
“Not only is this easier to manage but our residents love a meal that looks like a proper meal. It returns dignity to their dining experience and restores enjoyment in mealtimes.
“If a resident is living with allergens, we simply turn to the information to ensure we provide person-centred meals that are free from the 14 known allergens.”
The Texture Modified dishes meant every resident could look forward to a great meal
Residents living with allergens have meal options at apetito with meals free from 14 known allergens
VSA is clearly delighted with the new approach to mealtimes.
“I’m really pleased with apetito”, says John. “It’s been a HUGE change from what we were used to, and the support we received was superb.
“It’s easy for people to be negative and yes, at the onset, some people were sceptical. However, we quickly dispelled those myths and the feedback we got from families and staff after the tasting sessions was wonderfully positive. Without exception, everyone was converted.
“We have a real partner in apetito – together we are one team. If I had to summarise, I would say the relationship has been an unmitigated success on many different fronts and has revolutionised our ability to deliver a quality mealtime service across multiple sites and across complex and varied needs”.
Positive feedback from families and staff after the tasting session