The restaurants and culinary team at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort are as vital to the property’s success as its five pristine courses.
With 85 holes of golf, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort (Bandon, Ore.) has a higher cumulative course ranking than almost anywhere draw since the resort opened to immediate rave reviews in 1999, Bandon Dunes’ dining options are equally impressive, designed to consistently excite and satisfy guests, no matter what type of cuisine they crave.
Bandon Dunes Golf Resort
Location: Bandon, Ore.
Led by Executive Chef Don McCradic, who has been with the resort for nearly 13 years, Bandon offers four restaurants, in addition to a slew of halfway houses and snack bars.
“Our guests typically stay with us for four or five days, so we have to provide a variety of experiences and foods to fuel them on the course and off,” says McCradic, whose eclectic culinary style is rooted in Pacific Northwest cuisine.
Today, Bandon does nearly $10.5 million in annual F&B, mostly in a la carte sales. Between all of its restaurants, the resort serves 1,200 meals a day, including breakfast.
“We’re fortunate to have only had two chefs here at Bandon since opening,” says Josh Lesnik, President of KemperSports, Bandon’s management company, and the resort’s first General Manager. “Over the years, we’ve earned the trust of our owner, Mike Keiser. He now encourages Chef McCradic to be creative and supports his efforts to incorporate more local and regional ingredients. Our goal is to keep it simple, but delicious.”
In addition to McCradic, Director of Food & Beverage Erin Gilchrist has had a big impact on Bandon’s operation, notably with the wine program, as well as with many of the aesthetics and operational efficiencies within the dining spaces.
“I am very fortunate to have such a strong team,” says Don Crowe, who returned to the resort as General Manager in November of 2016, upon the retirement of long-time GM Hank Hickox. (Crowe served as the resort’s first hotel operations manager in 1999.)
“Both [McCradic] and [Gilchrist] have a comprehensive understanding of the brand and the resort,” says Crowe. “They know how important food-and-beverage is to the overall experience.”
Food and Wine as They Were Meant to Be
McCradic and his team of chefs develop menus to highlight the best of the Northwest, carefully balancing traditional, signature dishes with more modern applications that are mostly featured as specials.
Over the years, as McCradic has earned the trust of Keiser and the KemperSports management team, he has expanded the use of local products throughout the property. Now, McCradic, Keiser and Crowe view this as one of the most important differentiating factors at Bandon.
“We work with local farmers to source ingredients unique to this corner of the country,” says McCradic. “We have access to incredible, fresh seafood and Northwest lamb and pork, as well as a wide range of produce. Not only are these ingredients exciting for us to use as chefs, but our guests come to the resort expecting to see dishes that feature local foods on our menus.”
One item that is somewhat famous at Bandon Dunes is Grandma’s Meatloaf.
“It’s a very traditional mix of pork, veal and beef,” says McCradic. “But it’s renowned. When you go to McKee’s Pub, you order Grandma’s Meatloaf.”
(The meatloaf is also Keiser’s favorite dish at the resort, with the locally caught salmon as his second favorite.)
Other bestsellers include steak, seafood, Kobe sliders and noodle bowls. “Our clientele is primarily men who have spent the day walking 36 holes of golf,” says McCradic. “When they come in for dinner, they generally want to eat and drink very well.”
To quench guests’ thirst, Gilchrist revamped the club’s wine program, first by shifting from traditional paper lists to an iPad list that allows guests to browse nearly 575 different wines available across the resort. Before committing to a bottle, they can read about regions, flavor profiles and tasting notes, and see suggested pairings.
“The iPads also help us to have up-to-the minute accuracy with inventory,” says Gilchrist, noting that the app used by Bandon is extremely user-friendly. “Since we introduced the iPads two years ago, only two guests have requested paper lists.”
In addition to the new technology (Gilchrist also spearheaded the resort’s transition to a new POS system), she, along with Assistant F&B Director Mike Miller, further refined the resort’s wine inventory, adding more labels from the Northwest, like Oregon Pinot Noir.
“We honed down some of the cabs and syrahs, evening the playing field with wines of the same quality from Oregon and Washington,” says Gilchrist.
She also developed better training programs for the staff and hired Wendy Henderlong as a dedicated sommelier. “[Henderlong] is a real fireball,” says Gilchrist. “The guests really enjoy her exuberance. Plus, she loves golf, so she can relate to them well.”
Henderlong now oversees purchasing, staff training and education. She also spends time on the floor, interacting with guests and helping to improve the service of wine.
Giving Each Outlet an Identity
From day one, food has been an important part of Bandon Dunes’ marketing message: “Great golf, great food and great people.” And as golf at the resort has evolved and grown, food and beverage has kept pace by offering new and exciting options.
In recent years, McCradic and Gilchrist have made it their mission to raise the restaurants’ brand profiles, beginning with the busiest outlet, The Gallery, which serves three meals a day.
“The menu at The Gallery is focused on familiar, traditional comfort food,” says McCradic. “To keep it from getting boring, we change it regularly.”
The Gallery has three separate dining spaces, and up until recently, there had been inefficient seating patterns as well as traffic-flow issues, especially during the ever-popular breakfast buffet.
“We wanted to create more variations in seating styles, adding more semi-private seating,” says Gilchrist. “The way it had been set previously, there was a giant table right in the middle of the room where we sat guests maybe six times in six months. It needed to move, as did the location of the breakfast buffet.”
In 2013, Gilchrist got the green light to revamp the layout of The Gallery. She moved the buffet to a more convenient part of the room, and reconfigured the front entrance to make it more welcoming. As part of that project, Bandon added a glass-encased, temperature-controlled wine wall near the front entrance that has become a showpiece for the resort and helps to draw guests into The Gallery.
“We added a big table near the front that looks at both the wine wall and out the windows toward Bandon Dunes’ 18th hole and the Pacific ocean,” says Gilchrist. “It gets far more use in this capacity.”
In addition to the physical changes at The Gallery, changes were made at McKee’s Pub (which serves classic pub grub, including sandwiches, pizza and fish-and-chips), the Pacific Grill (which features a more Mediterranean vibe, with lots of fresh seafood) and Trails End (with a Pacific Rim/Asian menu); all were updated with new menu covers, server uniforms, décor and signage unique to their themes.
“In the past, guests would sometimes say we lacked variety,” says Gilchrist. “By giving each outlet its own identity, we’ve been better able to showcase how much variety we actually have.”
Moving Forward Together
One would be hard-pressed to find another Executive Chef and Director of Food & Beverage who are as united in their efforts to continually improve F&B as McCradic and Gilchrist. And as Crowe continues to get acclimated to his new position, he hopes to further build on the already-strong foundation they have helped to establish.
“The greatest thing about Bandon Dunes is that it’s constantly changing and evolving,” says McCradic. “There’s always talk of more growth, which keeps us motivated to be at our best.”
In the coming years, McCradic and Gilchrist hope to remodel the kitchen behind McKee’s Pub, take steps to keep Trails End open year-round, and add another restaurant or two to the property.
“It’s tough to imagine improving or changing the operation right now,” says Crowe, who will support McCradic and Gilchrist by listening to their needs and providing help when they need it. “Our staff is our best asset, and they come up with great ideas.
“Whether it’s the creative, experienced culinary team, the professional management team or the genuine, helpful and friendly service staff—our people, and the experience we provide to our guests, is what makes us who and what we are.”
View From the Top
Josh Lesnik, President of KemperSports, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort’s management company, and the resort’s first General Manager, has watched F&B evolve over the resort’s exciting history. Here, he shares insights into his time working at and with Bandon, as well as how he sees the industry’s focus on F&B changing and evolving.
Q: When you were GM at Bandon, what was F&B like?
JL: When we opened in May of 1999, the F&B operation was much smaller. We opened with one golf course and 96 beds. So we were a small destination—but still a destination, so we knew our food had to be high-quality, fresh and timely.
We also knew it had to be served by genuine, helpful and friendly people. From the beginning, we kept it simple. For example, at dinner, we offered one steak, one chicken, one fish, a vegetarian offering and one signature dish, which of course was Grandma’s Meatloaf. At that point, people were only staying a few nights, so the owner’s direction was to do a few things, but do them very well.
Q: As F&B has evolved at Bandon, what have been some of the most significant changes in your eyes?
JL: We now have four distinct outlets open at various times throughout the year for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Having said that, our goal is still to keep it simple. Chef McCradic has given the menus a more local and regional taste. Now that we have five courses and our guests are staying longer, we have more creative offerings, but our goals with the staff are still the same: genuine, helpful and friendly service.
Q: What is the role of F&B today at Bandon?
JL: The F&B operation plays a huge role in our overall guest experience. Bandon Dunes has become such a unique destination. We see a lot of guest comments that say Bandon is better than Scotland and Ireland because the courses are as good, you don’t have to drive between courses, and the food is way better.
Q: Generally speaking, what is the role of F&B today at other properties within the KemperSports portfolio?
JL: Food plays a big role in the success of our company. We are very diverse, meaning we manage all different kinds of courses. We don’t have a “one size fits all” approach. We try to custom-fit our solutions to each facility we operate.
We know members and guests in Southern California might like their tuna salad different than members and guests in Maryland. We don’t tell our chefs they have to make things a certain way. At the same time, we offer great national buying programs, so our facilities can enjoy partnerships to help with their cost of goods.
When you manage a diverse portfolio, our motto is “best in class.” Whether serving a hot dog or a bone-in filet, we want it to be the best in our competitive set.
Q: Is F&B an important part of a property’s success?
JL: Absolutely! F&B can play a huge role in the success of a club or resort. We make sure the goals of the F&B operation are agreed-upon up front, which allow us to come up with a unique plan for each owner and facility.