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The challenge of choice – an aged care perspective

Higher consumer expectations will require a new paradigm

When it comes to aged care, Australia is facing rapid change and growth.

At 30 June 2018, there were 207,695 residential aged care places offered by 2,695 service providers, with a 90 per cent occupancy rate.¹ Despite a growing preference to remain at home, an additional 76,000 residential aged care places will be required by 2023/24 to meet expected demand.² That’s a 37 per cent increase in just five years.

Such growth, coupled with consumers’ higher expectations of care, food and accommodation, reveal just how complex offering choice will be in the future.

The future of user-pay services in aged care

Australians aged between 65 and 74 have the highest average net worth of $1.3 million. This wealth has driven demand for luxury residential offerings – something that’s unlikely to change when this cohort moves into residential aged care.³

The introduction of means-testing in residential care implies consumers who meet certain income thresholds will contribute more towards their care costs, including additional user-pay services.

When it comes to food, how might this work in practice?

Traditionally, aged care providers offer a limited choice menu, which is ordered in advance (usually a week ahead). Other providers may offer an à la carte menu, where residents choose from a daily menu.

Now let’s imagine a world of user-pays choice. One resident may be offered wagyu and a glass of pinot noir, whereas his neighbour, who hasn’t signed up for user-pay services may be offered more humble fare; perhaps a shepherd’s pie with a choice of only coffee or tea.

Result: a poor dining experience for all.

To make this work, you would need to plan alternate menus and prepare different menu displays, maintain separate dining rooms and possibly even operate different kitchens – resulting in added complexity, cost and food wastage.

Technology will be a key enabler of future choice

For care providers, choice represents a paradigm shift away from an institutionalised food service to more of a true restaurant style service with à la carte menus, sophisticated billing systems, all while still catering for the complexity of individual diets and texture modified needs.

Making this shift without technology would be virtually impossible.

About SoupedUp

SoupedUp is Australia’s leading catering software and online training provider to the care industry. Our proven technology solutions save facilities on average 19 per cent on catering costs^, while reducing the risks associated with food service delivery in an aged care setting. To learn more about SoupedUp’s solutions visit

^ Time and cost savings based on an aged care facility of 80-90 beds, including subscription fees. Source data based on average time and costs spent by 24 facilities switching from paper-based system to SoupedUp Catering.


¹ Services and places in aged care
² Australia’s aged care sector: economic contribution and future directions, Deloitte Access Economics, June 2016
³ ABS 6523

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