Foodbuy spoke with Zahra C, National Menu Planning Consultant at SGP, to help operators better understand how SGP develops menus. Zahra’s main responsibility is to develop menus for SGP members that are compliant with national, provincial, and local menu regulations. When she’s not actively researching and building menus, she works on quality initiatives that focus on improving system processes, regulatory compliance, and resident satisfaction. Zahra headshot

Growing up Zahra played competitive sports, which introduced her to how diet and nutrition plays a vital role in performance and overall health. With exposure to the healthcare industry, her interest and intrigue in Canadian healthcare systems led her to a passionate career in healthcare.

Zahra has over 10 years of experience with menu planning and development. She started at a small Toronto hospital, where she held various roles including managing patient food services, procurement, ordering, and purchasing, which gives her the necessary experience and well-rounded perspective for developing menus today. 

Zahra starts the menu development process by looking at resident and family feedback on past menus. This approach puts specific resident needs first. She then connects with culinary leads, dietitians, administrators, and nutrition managers, to gain insights on both the successes and challenges they have had with past menus. 

“A menu is only as good as it can be executed, so it’s important to me that the menu is not just idealistic but is tangible and can be delivered as promised.” states Zahra.

Inspiration for menu planning also comes from staying on top of emerging food and nutrition trends through social media and attending the industry’s leading seminars and conferences. Zahra and SGP host bi-annual menu ideation sessions. During these sessions, local, national, and global food vendors are invited to present products and conduct recipe testing. These products and recipes are assessed for their nutritional content, versatility across various diets, textures, flavour profiles, ease of preparation, their cost and the overall appropriateness for Senior Living residents.

“The main purpose of menu planning and development is to create menus that feel like an extension of a resident’s home. Typically, establishments with longer stay residents adopt these menus, but they can also be utilized in complex continuing care and post-acute care rehabilitation settings as well.” states Zahra.

“In many cultures, food is intertwined with health and healing. For residents, part of the enjoyment of eating is choosing foods that reflect their own culture and preferences.” To ensure resident satisfaction, Zahra encourages operators to involve residents in the menu approval and implementation process so that their cultural, religious, and personal preferences are considered.

“Through close collaboration with Foodbuy, we are able to source the right products and solutions to drive efficiencies and improve economics.” With a focus on compliance, Foodbuy drives value across healthcare contracts by identifying key products and programs that contribute to overall sustainable procurement solutions.  Foodbuy provides further value by stewarding efforts of SKU rationalization, contract utilization and effective communications across stakeholders including suppliers, vendors and distribution.

Make sure your operation is taking advantage of the SGP/Foodbuy program to assist with time savings, product sourcing, and contract compliance. Also, improve your resident satisfaction levels, by implementing key menu solutions to help support your business.

To learn more about the factors involved in menu planning, read the article in our latest Foodbuy Healthcare Guide here.

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