Like all successful club managers, Michael McCarthy has developed quite an eye for detail during his career. And when McCarthy visited Addison Reserve Country Club in Delray Beach, Fla., to consider becoming its new Chief Executive Officer/General Manager in 2007, he was struck by one detail—or more precisely, the absence of many. “If this was supposed to be a clubhouse inspired by [famed Florida architect] Addison Mizner, I kept wondering where the Mizner influences had gone,” he says. “From the first day I came here, I started thinking about the need to bring them back.”
Location: Delray Beach, Fla.
McCarthy accepted the new position at Addison Reserve and left BallenIsles Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., where his accomplishments had earned him Excellence in Club Management recognition. The move raised eyebrows within the industry (see “New Address, Same Delivery”), but McCarthy explained that it was all part of seeking new challenges.
Four years later, at the end of 2011, Addison Reserve members came to the clubhouse for a Gala Weekend to see, and celebrate, all that finding—and taking on—those challenges had involved. The clubhouse, originally built in 1996, had not only been fully “restored,” but significantly expanded (from 42,000 to 70,000 sq. ft.). The work was done not just to properly reflect the Mizner influence that gave the surrounding community its name (the club transitioned to member-owned in 2002), but also to introduce new concepts, most notably in dining, to distinguish Addison Reserve’s future. The $15.5 million project took eight months—and included a lot of detail.
“The original [Mizner-inspired] Mediterranean style had been lost, because of a lot of quasi-contemporary changes that were made after the clubhouse opened,” McCarthy said as he led a tour of the renovated building, continually pointing out the level of detail in the new solid-marble floors, multi-level ceilings, wainscoting, millwork, area rugs and wallpaper (and once stopping to ask a staff member to reposition a floral centerpiece that was sitting too high and impeding the interior sightlines in one of the new dining rooms).
“I must have taken over a thousand photos as I visited [Mizner-designed buildings at] the Everglades Club and The Breakers [both in Palm Beach] that could serve as benchmarks for what we wanted to do,” McCarthy says. “I also went to clubs known for their “retro looks” and attention to detail, like Charlotte Country Club [“Remaking History“], Hamilton Farms Golf Club, Desert Highlands and Cherokee Town and Country Club.
“I wanted to take the best of everything I saw and implement it here,” he adds, “to return this club to the look, and style, that the entire community [of 717 single-family homes, organized in 19 villages on 653 acres] was built around.”
Five Restaurants in One
In the process of giving that look back to Addison Reserve CC, McCarthy and his team also took bold steps to position the club as an industry innovator, particularly in food-and-beverage concepts. “We wanted to transform the clubhouse into a place that would offer a variety of real and different restaurant choices, each with its own distinctive brand, look, cuisine and price points,” he notes. Dining options now available to Addison Reserve members include these venues:
• Trattoria—The club’s old grill room and bar has been converted into an upscale restaurant with a Mediterranean ambiance and a menu featuring authentic regional Italian selections like strozzapreti and spaghetti chitarra. Price points for Trattoria range from $22-$42.
• Taste—This seafood/chophouse venue is being positioned as the club’s flagship restaurant “that truly celebrates the Addison lifestyle.” Located in the center of the clubhouse’s main dining room, Taste offers views, from every window, of the new waterfall feature that occupies a central position among the club’s three nine-hole golf courses. The room features booth and banquette seating, and a menu with dishes that represent “a complete and thorough thought process, to balance the flavors of the meat or fish with a seasonal vegetable preparation and complimentary sauce.” Price points range from $32-$56 (the high end is for lobster tails), with an average of $42.
• Styr—This new bar/lounge opens at 2 p.m. during the week, and at 1 p.m. on weekends. By day, it offers a sports-bar atmosphere and menu, and is being promoted as a place to get drinks and “fun snacks” (smoked-salmon flatbreads, mini-Waygu corn dogs, herb-grilled chicken wings, Reuben croissants) while watching one of 12 high-def TVs (10 inside, plus two on the patio; the club has subscribed to NFL Sunday Ticket, to be able to show every pro football game).
At night, Styr becomes a lounge where members can get complimentary hors d oeuvres before dining at Trattoria or Taste. For those who don’t plan to eat in either restaurant, a tapas and small-plate menu, as well as dessert offerings, are available. The room features live entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights throughout the season, and on Friday nights throughout the summer. Price points for Styr run from $5-$15.
• Vault—This new gourmet wine room has been created in the new clubhouse’s private dining room section, so it can be made available to members who want to hold special events for groups of up to 18 people. It features an old Chicago-style vaulted ceiling (“placed one brick at a time,” McCarthy notes), mahogany built-in cases with hand-painted murals, and tall windows that provide secluded golf-course views. It was designed with special service access, to avoid interruptions once a party has assembled. “This is not a Board room,” McCarthy stresses.
“It’s for intimate and special dining experiences with family and close friends, to create lifetime memories.” He expects it to be used three to four nights a week, at price points starting at $100 per person for customized, multi-course dinners that include wine pairings.
• The Bistro—As part of its F&B rebranding, Addison Reserve is also repositioning an existing outlet in the Esplanade—the Mediterranean-styled complex that’s a short walk from the clubhouse, adjacent to the club’s 12-court tennis facility, that houses its fitness center, children’s fun center, spa and junior Olympic pool. The Bistro is now being recast as a lower-priced ($15-$20) restaurant with a more casual menu, featuring salads, sandwiches and pizza, that will be open five nights (Tuesday through Saturday) and touted as a lunch spot on weekends (but open to full capacity during holiday weeks).
Extinguishing the Sternos
Apart from the five distinctive brands, Addison Reserve also designed its renovated clubhouse to maximize the flexibility of its new dining rooms and completely rethink its approach to even the most basic club dining operations. “The renovation also provided an opportunity to make a complete break from the usual way to serve a lot of people with cafeteria-style lunch buffets, chafing dishes and Sternos,” McCarthy says.
To that end, Addison Reserve is touting its new “display kitchen,” now set up to serve lunch each day, as one of “the best new features” to emerge from the renovation. The club spared no expense for state-of-the-art ovens, grills, countertops and holding equipment, with built-in burners and warmers, to prepare and present displays of a full variety of hot, cold and fresh choices, including an attended deli carving station, that are made available each day. For this service, the full main dining room area is transformed during the day into a grill-room atmosphere.
The same setup will be employed for the club’s popular series of Family Buffets on Sunday nights, where themes are rotated weekly that include Pan Asian, The Route 66 (Heartland favorites) and New England Fish Shack.
Even the most inspired concepts and exciting presentations won’t do it on their own, of course, if the food isn’t equally enticing. Addison Reserve certainly didn’t overlook this “detail,” either—earlier this year, it named Zachariah Bell, who has a rock star-level following gained from 13 years of working with renowned chef Daniel Boulud, as the club’s new head chef.
Bell prides himself on following “Le Guide de Le Repertoire de la Cuisine,” which mandates that ingredient preparations should not be repeated within the same menu. But he also recognizes the realities, and accepts the challenges, that come with serving a fixed customer base in a club environment.
“The club business is really the definition of being in the hospitality business, because you work in the members’ house,” he says. “I’m sure there will be issues here that never came up for me in restaurants—but I’ve already seen that if you fix them, the members will be much more forgiving.”
McCarthy is confident that all of these new ingredients—new restaurants, new presentations and a new celebrity chef at the helm—will create a recipe for a significant boost in Addison Reserve’s F&B business (of which 90% comes from a la carte service). Where the club was a $3 million dining operation prior to the start of construction, it has already reopened at a $4 million-plus annual pace—and long-term, McCarthy sees no reason why $5 million can’t be attained.
Value All Around
Other parts of the Addison Reserve operation, of course, weren’t just gathering dust while the clubhouse was being renovated. On the golf course, 18 of the club’s 27 Arthur Hills-designed holes received a $3 million renovation of their own this year, primarily for regrassing, but also to include the “detail work” of the new signature waterfall, as well as rock walls around several water features that have not only improved the appearance of the course but kept more balls in play, without compromising the challenge for top players.
Golf Course Maintenance Director Mark Heater and his Superintendent, John Stofa, now plan to focus on readying the club’s practice area for a new “virtual game” concept that would allow members to practice all of the shots they take while playing a round, and from the surfaces and lies they would encounter on the course, without requiring much more time than’s needed to hit a few buckets of balls.
In the clubhouse’s remodeled pro shop, Retail Buyer Angie Young has rolled out in-store “e-shopping” kiosks from which members can special-order directly from selected vendors (the items are shipped to the club, and billed to members’ accounts, with appropriate discounts applied). Young also does quite well with the shoppers who want to touch and see what they buy, too—including some who don’t blink at the price tags (up to $600) for some of the high-end men’s and women’s fashions that she successfully merchandises.
At The Esplanade complex, Fitness/Spa Director Grant Worthington continues to emphasize wellness-related programming, not only throughout the year but with a special Wellness Fair that’s held annually on the first Saturday of January. In addition to aerobics classes and spa treatments, the 2012 event, held for three hours in the morning, gave members access to a dietician, dermatologist, chiropractor and physical therapists, offer discounted teeth whitening, and had the latest fitness attire available for sale. Door prizes were offered for those attending the event, which has grown over five years to now attract nearly 300 participants.
These departments, and others on the management team, continually seek to develop initiatives like these, in response to McCarthy’s directive to not only be “industry changing, but industry amazing.” The objective behind that goal is not to earn accolades for how the club is managed, but to keep finding new ways to increase the value of the club for the property-holders within the Addison Reserve gates.
Demonstrating their confidence that the staff and Board can deliver on that promise, 83 percent of the club’s membership approved the $18 million for the clubhouse and golf course renovations projects, which assessed each membership $18,000. Now that it’s completed, one member told McCarthy he thinks the new clubhouse stands to increase his home’s value by 20%. Others have said that if and when it’s time to sell, they’ll now plan to once again show the clubhouse first, as an important detail about life at Addison Reserve.