CDM, CFPP of the Month - May 2021

Chas Kelly, CDM, CFPP

Name: Chas Kelly, CDM, CFPP

Job Title: District Manager
Employer: Unidine Lifestyles
Job Location: Southeast & Midwest US

Years in Current Position:5 Years

CDM, CFPP Since:2001

Why did you decide to become a CDM, CFPP?

I transitioned into senior living as a Director of Dining Services after several years as an Executive Chef with Walt Disney World Resorts and Hyatt Hotels. The Director position at the CCRC had oversight of the CDM, CFPP in the skilled nursing building. I wanted to better understand the requirements of this position so I became a CDM, CFPP. This has helped me manage the clinical side of my business. 

What are your main responsibilities in your current position?

Unidine Lifestyles is a boutique provider of dining services preparing “fresh food” in senior living communities throughout the US. I have direct oversight of eight senior living accounts in several states. My main responsibilities are ensuring we are delivering on our promise of exceeding our clients’ expectations, ensure our quality standards are being met, develop my management team, ensure our financial commitments are being met, and assist in the business development process.  

How do you organize your time at work to make sure you accomplish all your responsibilities?

I use Outlook calendar to block chunks of time to accomplish important tasks without interruption. I am also a huge proponent of the Franklin Covey planning method of writing down your to do list. This is one area that I feel I am more productive by using a pen and paper vs. my phone or computer. The digital format provides an easy “delay 1 day” swipe while the act of writing your lists each day reinforces where you are and where you need to go.

What is an example of an innovative way you have made change at your facility and how did you implement it?

I had a system that was self op prior and all of their food cost was lumped into one big number. Because our processes involve tracking of all individual expenses, it was discovered that our clients were spending over twice the industry average in the daily cost of floor stocks (usually caused by staff consumption). We were able to present this information to our C-suite clients and partner to roll out a new floor stock program. The new program consisted of individual carts for each hallway with items that were inventoried along with resident rosters that were used for tracking consumption and individual hydration stations.  Implementation required presenting this information to the Executive Directors of each location and getting their buy in (certainly helped that our proposed changes could save them a lot of money!). There was daily training to ensure a successful start to the program along with daily recap meetings with vested positions. Once implemented there were additional outcomes that were not anticipated: increased resident satisfaction due to increased touch points throughout the day, improved hydration, and weights were better maintained. There was also an improved sense of teamwork between dining services and the nursing staff due to the daily interactions between staff.

What was your first job in the foodservice industry?

I was a dishwasher at a pizza / seafood restaurant outside of Philadelphia. I did such a good job I was promoted to prep cook! That started my educational journey in foodservice that included graduating from the Culinary Institute of America and CDM, CFPP credentials. 

Who has been your biggest mentor in food service and how have they helped shape your career?

I have had the opportunity to work with talented Chefs / Managers / Hourly Associates in every stage of my career and have been shaped by each and every one of them. However, my father was the most influential in guiding me through my entrance into foodservice. When I told him I wanted to go to Culinary school he suggested I get a full time job in the field because it can be a very demanding career working 7 days a week, 12-14 hours a day, weekends when your friends are off and holidays when all of your family is home. He was right about all of it, but above all, I was hooked and loved every minute! Providing for and serving others (especially our seniors) is the most gratifying profession and I am one of the lucky few who “never worked a day in his life.” To this day, when speaking to groups of young aspiring chefs and foodservice students, I use the same qualifying statement my father used when guiding me all those years ago. 

What are the biggest challenges you face in your position and how do you handle them?

Staffing has been and will continue to be our biggest challenge. I strive to keep a full bench of qualified associates that will be ready for the next opportunity. Continuing education is vital in keeping up to date with industry trends. The advantage of working for Unidine is the excellent training and learning opportunities provided throughout every stage of your career. This focus on learning provides a career path to those that are just starting out in the industry and additional opportunities for those looking to further their career. 

What is your favorite part of your job?

The people! I am amazed at the heart that our associates serve our residents with each and every day. This was especially evident this past year during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

How do you stay up to date with current innovations and trends?

In addition to attending annual conferences hosted by my alma mater, The Culinary Institute of America, I am involved in several national and regional associations that focus on various disciplines within senior living. Our Culinary team consists of some of the best in the industry and they are on the cutting edge of food trends. They provide excellent support to our chefs and managers which allows them to focus on what we do best, “Fresh Food.” In addition to food and nutrition, we need to stay on top of trends such as: equipment and materials that save money due to efficiencies in production, maintenance and disinfection. 

How do you envision the foodservice industry changing in the next few years?

Unidine was started 20 years ago because our founder saw the need for providing freshly prepared foods to our seniors. Our customers have higher expectations pertaining to their food and beverage offerings. Additionally seniors are the primary group that look to their diet as part of their medical intervention plan. Unidine is in the unique position of providing fresh foods made from scratch. I also see the automation of food safety becoming the standard throughout. The use of wireless thermocouples and data trackers to monitor our food from purchase to consumption so our most vulnerable are ensured their food has been properly handled. This tracking technology will provide the necessary data to determine fail points in our processes.

What is your advice to those just getting started in the foodservice industry?

In addition to the advice my father gave me I would say continue to thirst for knowledge. I’d stress to become proficient at each task given as they are building blocks to your career. Try to complete a 60 minute task well in 45 minutes. That leaves you 15 more minutes to learn something new! Best of all enjoy the Journey!