Vi at The Glen expands dining options to suit next generation

From sliders and cold beer at the bar to wine pairings and full-on, five-course fine dining in the main dining room, residents at Vi at The Glen have a wide range of dining options and ever-changing menus.

The evolution of the dining experience at the Glenview Vi, and its nine sister luxury life plan communities around the country, is a product of corporate understanding. In particular, understanding that the first wave of baby boomers, now moving into top-tier multilevel care communities, want more choices.

“The boomers are looking for a wider range of experiences,” said Carrie Schroeder, executive director of Vi at The Glen. “They want to be a lot more casual, and they want the variety because that is what they are used to.”

Steve Fowler, former executive director of Vi at The Glen and now assistant vice president of food and beverage for Vi Living, said officials want to ensure the Vi offers a range of operations and restaurants for residents because it’s “not one size fits all.”

“Traditionally, it used to be one meal in a formal setting, how our dinner was served,” Fowler said. “Now, we also accommodate fast casual because that is what people go out and enjoy in the real world. We also promote our upscale casual restaurant that is available and not overly formal. And we still pride ourselves on offering formal fine dining that features dishes that are intended to showcase the skill of our culinary team and impress our residents and their guests.”

The restaurant also is taking steps to make dining a more immersive experience. Cooking demonstrations and guest lectures on subjects like food sourcing, regional cuisines, and dining trends are up for consideration.

“The next generation of residents wants to know about things. They want to ask questions,” said Fowler. “It ultimately makes the experience more enjoyable.”

Vi at The Glen now offers a full-service breakfast venue, two lunch venues, a casual and formal dinner venue, and an evening bar. There also is an elegant Sunday brunch, holiday brunches, and private dining room service to celebrate special events or holidays.

“The new generation coming in, they like the fine dining, but maybe a few times a week, not every day,” said Executive Chef Jose Luna, who heads a kitchen staff of 30. “Now, if they want to sit at the bar and watch the game with friends, they can.”

Luna prides himself on offering nothing but fresh products, all from scratch cooking, and ever-changing selections.

“We change menus every day,” he said. “No one does that. No restaurants do that. I have 28 entrees I offer to my residents every day, and maybe next week they will be totally different. And we cook everything in that minute.”

All Vi communities offer a holistic approach to wellness that encompasses mind, body and spirit. Its Living Well programming constantly evolves.

Luna said the first priority “is to keep the residents healthy.”

“Healthy food is a big part of Living Well in the community and helps our residents to live longer and age well,” he said. “For example, flavorful, healthy sauces have pushed aside heavy gravies; colorful fruits and vegetables adorn creative main course plates and side salads; fish can come grilled, sautéed or blackened; vegan and gluten-free options are offered; all meats are trimmed in-house. It is definitely home cooking here.”

Vi at The Glen has a resident food and beverage committee, chaired by Jackie Kopp, that has played an active role in advocating for adjustments.

“A lot of the changes we initiated in Glenview started with her and her committee,” Fowler said.

“We have been extraordinarily successful working together (with chef Luna),” said Kopp, who has dined on all seven continents and in 150 countries. The changes, she said, “have been very well-received.”

Healthy living isn’t the only byproduct of healthy dining, said Schroeder.

“Food is always something that brings people together,” she said. “Dining just becomes such a social experience. Research shows us that your health is better as you age the more connections you have in life. With more choices for residents to come together and share that communal, social experience, our dining experience plays into that fact and is a huge factor for us.”

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