Ed, are you talking a facility that is strictly Assisted living or a facility that has both independent and assisted living. There are also those facilities that have the two I just mentioned plus and Alzheimer's ward. That is on lock down 24/7 with one door access in and out.
I can only speak from the experience I had at the company during the time I worked there. Yes, budgets are sacred as they are with most places that operate on one. There is, however, some room for flexibility given situations.
I have given this some more thought and after looking at an old Monthly FCA (Food Cost Analysis) some things came back to memory.
First off you will be given a Food purchase budget. There are also guidelines to type of food served. I.E. proteins, starches, carbohydrates etc, etc, but my experience was not as confined as some out there because we were Retirement with light assisted living. I never had to blenderize a meal nor did I have to adhere to strict guidelines regarding nutrition. There are properties out there that really tie your hands with this.
Anyhow, The food budget you are given is what you purchase. I used it in a declining fashion so not to get to outta control. My cost was figured just as you normally would....Beginning inventory-ending inventory+purchases=usage but my sales were the per resident day cost multiplied by the actual number of residents on property. I was also allowed to add in or subtract when necessary any extra expenses from other departments that were not budgeted for or for special Marketing event's like National Milk Shake Day or National Pie Month. As I already mentioned I had guest meal sales which helped greatly and only increased if I kept the food at a high level of quality execution. To give you an idea of this, my November and December guest meals sales totaled 2100.00. Considering it was not that for the first 4 months combined it shows how much of a hurdle had to be over come. The previous Chef was not well liked nor respected. This leads me to my next point.
Dealing with the residents is a far different situation than guests in restaurants, hotels and even members of Clubs. Actually this is a Club multiplied by 60. Mostly because this is home for every resident and not just a place they come to two or three times a week. Remember that it's you that arrives in that home, every day, to provide them a service. Think of the term "Using kit gloves". You will be tempted to try and win an argument but believe me all you will do is make you job more difficult. You will eat far more crow than you ever thought you could. You will learn when you have to stand your ground, like never before and that you can't kiss butt since they see right through. Sounds like a contradiction but it's like you have to give them what they want but without looking like you caved in and wimped out. It's an argument that never looks like an argument.... more a banter between friends. It is a challenge but you will enjoy the time you make in getting to know each and every resident and their needs. The last thing to remember is so basic but you only get out of the residents what you invest into them. Hours may sound good and are good but not until you establish yourself with the residents.
My residents knew that they could have anything. They di take advantage of it from time to time but by God these folks had earned it. It's important to listen to the residents. Again, this is their home. They have earned nothing but total respect and the best way to give them it is to look at them as you Grand Parents. I will never say that out of all the jobs I had, there was a more rewarding one than that. It actually may have been the most rewarding.
The staff is another thing and should be ruled just as you would any other staff in any other operation. The only difference is that you'll have a difficult time since most are institutional workers with no restaurant experience. If you are the exec or F&B Services Director, hire a good, restaurant quality Sous. Pay them the top dollar you can and if you think it's too low, fight for more. Get a couple good , solid, well rounded restaurant kitchen staff. Ones that can do prep and run a line. This will save your butt.
My Sous was an Exec by all practical purposes. My two cooks were Sous and I fought to keep them. The rest of the staff was filler and ended up being filled by temps because of the issue of Background Checks. Those are a pain in the arse to get through with some folks but entirely necessary for the surrounding. I think I interviewed 1000 people in my year and only could hire 5. They're no better from the Agencies but the Agency is responsible for the screening and that released me from the responsibility. Unfortunately I spent more time running food to my three satellite dining rooms and washing dishes than I ever thought I would. It still had to be done and that's where my support staff came in to play. They understood the objectives and took care of the bulk of the resident population. This is not to say they didn't tack over when I had oter responsibilities or had to be off property to assis another property(s).
I hope you were able to make it through this and that it made some sense. Like the Peace Corps once said..... "It's the Toughest Job you'll ever Love!"