The Chef to Chef Conference provides passionate proof that the best chefs embrace a strategic management process to achieve success.
I attended my first Chef to Chef Conference, sponsored by Club & Resort Business magazine, last spring in Atlanta. It was two-and-a-half action-packed days of presentations made by noted culinary leaders who’ve all excelled in private clubs, and who shared their personal stories about their passions, desires, and the managerial processes that have led to their success.
In their Conference presentations, the chefs expounded on the rules they live by that have become the foundations on which their successful careers have been built, and that support the successful dining experiences their club members enjoy daily.
Here are some of the notable quotes that set the tone early on for the Conference:
(From Executive Chef Edward Leonard, Certified Master Chef, The Polo Club of Boca Raton)
“A culture of excellence is a state of mind; it is a journey, not a destination.”
“It is not a set of rules to follow—it is being led by a philosophy.”
(Executive Chef/Food & Beverage Manager Brian Beland, Certified Master Chef, Country Club of Detroit)
“It’s not about passion—passion ebbs and flows; it is all about DESIRE!”
“Maturity comes when you stop making excuses, and start making changes.”
“Measurable service guarantees must be:
- Simple and clearly defined
- Pass or fail
- Measured internally
- Measured across departments
- Documented and part of day-to-day operational decision-making.”
“Food and Beverage is a part of every part of the club!”
“Hire and train great people who hire and train great people, and then let them do their jobs.”
“If you want to be the best, you have to do things other people aren’t willing to do.”
What was notable for me, as a successful and tenured former COO of private clubs who now consults with private clubs, specializing in club operations and dining, was that nearly all of the thirteen presentations delivered during the Conference extolled a Strategic Management Process as the center of their operational ethos and the foundation of their clubs’ dining success. The resounding overlying messages to the conference attendees were:
- Develop a plan and a Dining Mission and Vision for your club that defines: Who you are, what you provide, at what level of quality, and most importantly, how you are special and unique.
- Develop goals on how to achieve your plan.
- Hire and inspire a qualified team of professionals to surround yourself with and help you lead.
- Develop systems to measure results.
- Share the results throughout your entire F&B team, Board of Governors and membership.
- Adjust your plan once knowing your results, refocusing on new targets with the hopes of continuously raising the bar of your member experiences.
To my esteemed fellow club General Managers/COOs: If you are not embracing and integrating the same kind of Strategic Management Processes that these Best-of-Executive Chefs have implemented in their clubs’ kitchens, you are missing a great opportunity to achieve at the highest levels.
Additionally, if you are not sending your culinary team to the Chef to Chef Conference—or better yet, attending it with them—you are missing a fantastic opportunity for your club to achieve Favorite Place Status as a dining destination.
Richard A. Lareau, CCM, CCE, ECM, is the Director of Dining & Club Operations for the McMahon Group, the St. Louis, Mo.-based firm that specializes in private-club management, operations and strategic direction and planning. Prior to joining the McMahon Group, Lareau worked in the private club industry for 24 years, including 11 years as General Manager of Boulder Ridge Country Club, Lake in the Hills, Ill., and 13 as General Manager/COO of The Briar Club in Houston, Texas. In 2009, Lareau was named the winner of The Mel Rex Award through the Excellence in Club Management Awards co-sponsored by the McMahon Group and Club & Resort Business. In 2013, he was named Club Manager of the Year by the Texas Lone Star Chapter of the Club Managers Association of America. An active member of Les Amis des Escoffier, Chaine des Rotisserie and The International Wine Society, Lareau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org