Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Members owe it to their club to eat at their club

One of biggest eyesores at most clubs, financially and (at times) visually speaking, is oftentimes the restaurant.

Many clubs if cornered, will tell you the restaurant is a necessary evil. 

Could a club really be a club without a restaurant?  I guess it depends on what your definition of a restaurant is?  Is a full-service, white table cloth run operation the same as a sandwich menu, paper napkin one?  That is for you to decide.

Let’s face it, many Clubs in the golden age (roughly 1920-1960) were the only place in town to get a drink or a decent steak.  As females (no, this isn’t sexist, it’s a fact) migrated from the home to the workplace, the need for restaurants grew...and grew, to the point that on nearly every corner of any town USA, you’ll now find an eating establishment of some kind.  

What does this have to do with your club and the viability of your restaurant?  Let’s take a look at what you are up against: 

1. More competition -  As we have already mentioned, restaurant’s are now on nearly every corner and with many different choices.

2. Better quality -  Name a fast food restaurant that doesn’t have an Angus Burger now for under $5?  How many of us even knew what an Angus Burger was 10 years ago?  What about the “fast casual” category?  Applebee’s and O’Charley’s both make a pretty good meal with big portions wouldn’t you say?

3. Speed - Drive-thru’s, 2-3 cook’s, and 2-3 more available people to take your order makes speed a foregone conclusion.

4. Cost - $5 foot longs, $6 Value meals with a drink, and “two can dine for $20” offers combined with the buying power of hundred’s of locations makes competing on price next to impossible.  

5. Convenience - I have an experiment for you to run next time you drive out to the club.  Count how many restaurant’s you pass on the way and tell me the number isn’t north of twenty?

“Wow, now it really looks like we can’t compete”!

Not so fast!  I believe you can compete, but things will have to change going forward.  Here’s a good starting place:

1.  Raise your quality - You will NEVER be able to compete price-wise with the McDonald’s/Hardee’s/Burger King/Subway restaurants your members pass on the way to the club, but you can outflank them on quality.  First, vow to quit serving burgers and any other item for that matter that has more bun than meat.  Also, quit serving a handful of chips or thin fries with more fried skin than potato in the middle.  In fact, when your members get their order, you should be dropping fries/chips on the way to their table.  You want your members to say wow(!), not ugh.  

 “But if we start serving bigger burgers/steak fries instead of the cheap thin ones and heap chips on their plate, our food costs will soar”!

Ok, I get that, but your members are going to spend $10 (double the aforementioned restaurants) no matter what they order when you figure in sandwich/tip/drink, why not charge a little more and give a little more?  When given a choice, most members would rather pay $12 for a quality meal than they would to spend $10 on a bad one.  

2. Use your built-in service to your advantage - Face it, your staff probably knows (or should know) your member’s entire family BY NAME.  Dale Carnegie said many years ago (correctly) that a person’s name is the sweetest sound in the world.  Who do you think your members would rather have wait on them, Tonya with a tongue ring and a McDonald’s visor or one of your staff members?  Why do you think Norm, the popular barfly from the TV show Cheers, always went to Cheers after work?  

3. Personalize it -  Do you always offer to serve beer in a frosted mug?  Are your Martini’s a little stronger than the local tavern?  Have you ever named a “Shirley Temple” a member’s name instead?  I would order one for my daughter every time if they called it a Hayley Sponcia instead, trust me.  How much does that cost?  Nothing.  How much would it cost to call a ham and cheese with extra pickle a Joe Sponcia?   

4.Utilize social media/email reminders to your advantage - If you aren’t using your club’s Facebook page to post daily lunch specials, you are missing the boat.  How about using a Monday morning e-menu blast to your members to let them know of any specials you might be running for the week?  Do you think the local fast-food establishment’s will do this?  Nope.

5. Ambiance makes the difference - Another built-in advantage you have over EVERYONE is your location and setting.  You may be a few miles out of the way, but where would you rather eat a burger?  In a hard plastic seat with a view of the parking lot or a nice wooden chair with the golf channel playing in the background and a view of the 18th green?  Is your dining room a showplace or outdated?  When was the last time you painted?  Are your chairs in need of repair?  Do your members have a favorite table?  Little things like this separate you from the masses.  Utilize them!

The last thing that needs to be addressed is this backward mentality that is pervasive at nearly every club I visit.  It sounds something like this:  

“Our members owe it to their club to eat there”.

No, it is actually the reverse.  

You owe it to your members to serve them a quality product, at a fair price (not cheap), and with a better-than-the-other-guy-attitude.  Period.

Remember the revolutionary mathematical formula:  E=MC2?

Here’s the private club version(s):

·       Small portions of crap = crap
·       Big portions of crap = crap
·       Good food tastes better with great service (which is free) and great ambiance.
·       Price is never the issue when the quality exceeds it.

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