Dining doesn’t get more casual than a snack bar or halfway house, but many clubs are opting for more sophisticated structures to offer increasingly diverse menus.
Chew on this: Snack bars are a ubiquitous component of many clubs and resorts, supplying members and guests with casual dining spots and a place to socialize. But as club patrons’ expectations have increased, these food-and-beverage operations are being enhanced with more elaborate menus and inviting designs. The result: a more memorable dining experience that goes well beyond traditional grab-and-go or quick fill-up fare.
A Slice of Heaven
At Sawgrass Country Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., the recent expansion of its Sandbar Bistro snack bar redefined its purpose. Perry Kenney, the club’s Director of Food & Beverage, now describes the Sandbar as “more of a dining venue than just a snack bar.”
|SUMMING IT UP
Set to reopen in March 2012 following an extensive renovation, the Sandbar Bistro was reshaped in response to member feedback indicating a desire for “an expanded facility with more than just traditional snack-bar offerings,” Kenney explains. That spurred plans to offer a full menu that would include fresh seafood, salads, hamburgers, homemade hand-tossed pizzas, daily specials, soft-serve frozen yogurt, smoothies and novelty ice creams.
To accommodate preparation of these additional offerings, the snack bar’s interior was redesigned to resemble a small kitchen line. The layout includes a six-slot pizza oven, a grill, fryer and under-the-counter refrigeration. While most of the prep work is done in the club’s main kitchen, the food is cooked at the Sandbar Bistro. Five club employees are dedicated to this operation, including two cooks and three servers.
Because of the expanded service, additional seating was essential. The Sandbar Bistro now offers spots for 80 people seated at tables and 20 more on outdoor furniture. “The overall desire for the renovation was to provide a dining venue that was very casual and inviting for families,” notes Kenney. Planters and foliage enhanced the ambiance, while fire pits were placed along deck railings.
Prior to the renovation, the Sandbar Bistro was purely a seasonal operation, open five days a week from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. between Memorial Day and Labor Day. It’s now open seven days a week until 8 p.m., allowing it to serve as a full lunch and dinner operation. “Demand was so great last year, management decided not to close down operations during the winter months,” reports Kenney, who says the only days off now come on Christmas and in the event of a tropical storm.
The changes have paid off with a significant contribution to the club’s bottom line and its food-and-beverage department. Comparing business from April to December 2012 to that same period in 2011, Sawgrass CC saw a whopping 591% increase in revenue.
In addition to strong sales, Kenney says the overhaul of the Sandbar Bistro has been a catalyst for other events, including Sundae Mondays, Tuesday Night Fish Fries and bonfires on the beach. The addition of homemade pizza has bolstered to-go orders as well. In fact, Kenney shares, members have raved “This is the best pizza since I left New York”—a compliment in and of itself.
Having gone through a major transformation over the last three years, the Galloping Hill Golf Course in Kenilworth, N.J., counts its Turn Window snack bar among its many enhancements. “We have gone from a traditional ‘muni,’ to what we call ‘The Home of Public Golf in New Jersey,’” explains General Manager Joe Abood.
After KemperSports assumed management of the club in January 2010, a facility-wide renovation was scheduled, including the demolition of the 70-year-old farmhouse that had served as the clubhouse and grill. To accommodate customers during this construction phase, management set up temporary shop in September 2011 and moved into a double-wide trailer that held a makeshift snack counter for 18 months.
In June 2012, following the first phase of the two-part renovation (a 4,000-sq. ft. TaylorMade Performance Lab with full-service grill), construction of a 46,000-sq. ft. clubhouse got underway. Within that multifaceted facility came a 300-person banquet facility, the Red Knot restaurant, a 100-seat Gastro Pub and the Turn Window, a sliding-window snack spot for casual dining.
Complementing the other food options for guests, the Turn Window was designed as an informal eatery. “It added a quick and convenient F&B outlet to service our golfers at a high-volume golf facility,” says Abood. Situated off the main kitchen, it makes use of the kitchen’s equipment while offering easy access to the 10th tee.
Menu selections include a pulled pork sandwich (blended in a homemade barbecue sauce) and a Red Knot signature hot dog, made from Kobe beef and served on a pretzel roll with corn salsa and watermelon radish. “The menu mirrors the restaurant specialties, but in quicker, smaller portions that are easy to take to the next tee,” he adds.
Those who choose not to take their snacks with them can dine under the covered patio at the Red Knot restaurant, overlooking the 9th and 18th greens, the two first tees and the 10th tee. Bordering the Garden State Parkway, Abood says the location of the site definitely presented a challenge to the snack bar’s design. “We were very limited by the site itself,” he explains. “The new clubhouse was constructed on the same footprint as the old one.”
Nevertheless, the newly opened snack bar has been serving its purpose and doing well in the short time since it opened. Abood estimates that the golf course sees between 400 and 500 rounds on any given day. “Our customers love the new facility; we have received rave reviews,” he enthuses.
While the costs involved with the recent makeover of Anglebrook Golf Club’s Halfway House were minimal, the impact of the improvements made to the Lincolndale, N.Y. club’s snack bar was anything but halfway. “For $1,000 in building materials and the cost of a deli counter, we’ve opened up a whole new world of food to our members,” says General Manager Matt Sullivan.
This past February, the club underwent a modest renovation that included updating its Halfway House, which is located on the ground level of the clubhouse’s east side. While the repairs were straightforward—removing an existing counter and opening up space for a new counter—the change in terms of menu offerings was significant.
“There was a time when golfers had a reputation for being all about pizza, chicken wings and draft beer,” recalls Sullivan. “We don’t see that as an across-the-board trend anymore—at least not here.”
To provide its members with more well-rounded food options, Anglebrook’s Halfway House menu has been refreshed to include a selection of homemade soups, salads and meat or seafood selections to suit a variety of tastes and cultural-inspired cuisine.
“Our members and guests have become more nutrition-conscious, and we’re delivering healthier alternatives,” notes Sullivan.
Because the Halfway House is actually a small kitchen, it handles roughly 75% of the food preparation for snack-bar customers. “We’re still selling hot dogs, burgers and cold cuts, but we’ve certainly broken the mold of what ‘grab-and-go’ food is at clubs,” notes Executive Chef Steve Quattrocchi.
Because of the massive menu overhaul, the snack bar was renamed the Ninth Hole Market, a nod to its location (where a call box originally allowed members to phone in their food orders).
Seating at the Ninth Hole Market consists of one large indoor table for eight guests, with a small tent and four teak tables outdoors. Sullivan says he’s noticed groups that sit under the tent after golfing instead of coming to the club’s grill room, while others come upstairs and ask for something they’ve seen on the Halfway House menu.
In fact, members are so enthusiastic about the new snack bar, they’re taking food home with them and ordering platters for parties of their own.
Sullivan credits both Chef Quattrocchi—who grew up in the area and saw the lack of gourmet delis as an opportunity—and the Halfway House Chef, Silvio Villavidencio, for helping the club tap into this latent demand.
Just a couple of months into the season, the response to the new snack bar has been tremendous. “Although I’ve been at a handful of clubs, I’ve never seen the look on the faces of members who enter the Halfway House anywhere that I’ve seen here this year,” says Quattrocchi.
Adds Sullivan, “To our members, it’s a whole new world in there.”