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Abstract Aim To investigate the effect of eating in a supervised dining room, on nutritional intake and weight, for elderly patients on an acute medicine for the elderly ward. Method Patients on the intervention ward were encouraged to attend a dining room every lunchtime by a trained nursing assistant as part of the rehabilitation process. The patients on the control ward ate only by their bedside. Food intake and weight data were collected over the study period on each patient. Results Forty-eight patients participated in the study. At the lunchtime meal studied the dining room group had higher intakes of energy compared with the controls [489 kcal (95% CI: 438–554) versus 360 kcal (95% CI: 289–448), P < 0.013]. There was no difference in protein intake between the groups [18.9 g (95% CI: 16.6–21.2) versus 17.7 g (95% CI: 13.2–22.2), P = 0.63]. No significant difference in weight gain between the two groups was seen (P = 0.6). However, there was a trend towards weight gain in the dining room group. Conclusion Food intake can be improved by using a supervised dining room, and this will potentially lead to weight gain and corresponding improvements in nutritional status and rehabilitation.