From new take-out menus and delivery service to heightened cleaning procedures and charitable donations of food that would otherwise go to waste, club food-and-beverage offerings have been greatly affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Staffs are finding creative solutions to make the best of a tough situation, with some reporting surprisingly strong levels of member response.
Clubs across the country have had to shift gears on the fly in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s a sampling of examples from TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth, Ga; Sawgrass Country Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.; Ansley Golf Club in Atlanta, Ga.; San Antonio (Texas) Country Club, and the Union League Club of Chicago.
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—In the wake of Georgia closing in-restaurant dining as a result of COVID-19, TPC Sugarloaf has put together a number of food and beverage to-go offerings for members.
These to-go menus are a starting point and TPC Sugarloaf plans to grow and change them frequently as they move forward.
—When the PGA Tour canceled the remainder of the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Sawgrass Country Club, located just two miles down the street in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., knew they needed to prepare for some changes to their operation.
“TPC cancelled on Thursday and by Friday we were working up a plan to launch our own delivery service called ‘Sawgrass Eats,’” says Perry Kenney, Assistant General Manager of Sawgrass CC. “We had to make things happen really fast, though. Once we had the infrastructure set, we ordered branded shirts for our drivers as well as car magnets, to-go packaging, labels and we even started to create videos and marketing materials to push out to the membership on social media.”
By Wednesday, Sawgrass CC was ready to go live with its new delivery program.
“Our club is located within a residential area and of our 1,475 members, about 850 live within the club’s gates,” says Kenney. “We had a segment of our service staff still interested in working even though the clubhouse is closed to members, so we transitioned them into our delivery team.”
While Kenney focused on marketing, Executive Chef Michael Meuse focused on the menus. He created a daily prixe fixe menu that members are able to order in advance. Those orders go out at exactly 5 p.m. and it takes the three drivers about 20 to 30 minutes to deliver 10-20 packages each. After that, they come back and begin running a la carte orders, which can be placed from 11 a.m. through 8 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.
“We reduced the a la carte dining menu by about 25 percent so that the dishes would work better for the to-go format,” says Meuse. (View Sawgrass CC’s To-Go menu here.)
Meuse is continuing the club’s Fit Fuel Menu program with roughly 260 to-go meals scheduled for each week. (View Sawgrass CC’s Fit Fuel menu here.)
To read more about Sawgrass Country Club’s efforts, click here.
—Kevin Walker, CMC, Executive Chef of Ansley Golf Club, shares how his club has handled operations as COVID-19 has many clubs and communities going into various stages of lockdown.
On January 2, 2020, Ansley Golf Club (Atlanta, Ga.) began a $3 million renovation to the kitchen, men’s and women’s locker rooms. Expected to take no more than four months, the department heads, long range planning committee and board put together a plan to keep to servicing the member’s with as little interruption as possible. We tented the pavilion at the pool and set up a la carte dining with a limited menu from the pool kitchen. Our 1912 restaurant became the temporary banquet kitchen. From it, we serviced all banquets and the new mixed grill (formerly the men’s grill), offering daily buffets for breakfast, lunch, and dinner to adults only. To help keep culinary staff employed, all buffets encompassed some type of action station.
While January started slow, we quickly picked up in February. In fact, we exceeded our budget by nearly $100,000 and March was tracking to beat budget as well.
Then this new reality hit—and it seems to change daily. As COVID-19 continues to spread, each day becomes a of caring for the health and wellbeing of members and staff, while figuring out what services, if any, can be offered at limited risk.
Over the past two to three weeks, we have implemented the following operating procedures and taken several steps to help make sure we curb the spread of COVID-19.
First, we placed hand-sanitizing stations at all entrances and buffets for members. In our daily line-ups, we stressed the importance of hand washing and correct glove usage. We asked for people, both members and staff, to stay at home if they were not feeling well. If the staff had not accrued, or had used all their vacation, holiday or PTO up, we would pull from upcoming years as necessary.
When that seemed unsafe, we added a server to serve members from our buffets. Using single use gloves, the attendant would assist the member through the buffet. In the kitchen, we also stepped up sanitation. Sanitizing all work surfaces every 30 minutes, changing utensils in the break room and wiping all handrails (both front and back of house every 15 minutes), and placing a moratorium on hand shaking or physical contact.
Then, last week, we cancelled all buffets, social, golf and tennis events, and began a la carte service only. We designed lunch and dinner to-go menus. Lunch is a limited a la carte, while dinner is 3-course meal for four people priced at $65 inclusive. We also began serving only prepackaged sandwiches for family meal.
To read more about Ansley Golf Club’s COVID-19 response, click here.
—Executive Chef Eduardo Castillo offers a behind-the-scenes look at how San Antonio (Texas) Country Club is navigating its culinary program as part of its coronavirus response.
Question: How is your club handling operations? Are you opened, closed, only doing carryout?
Eduardo Castillo: Starting today, the main club house is only offering carryout packages and prepackaged foods. There is no a la carte whatsoever. All orders must be placed by 2 p.m. Hot pickup is between 5 and 6 p.m. We are still providing our staff lunch and dinner. Our pool grill operation is also serving lunch and dinner from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. There is no in-house dining and all orders are to-go to limit gatherings of any kind. We have closed all other food service.
Q: How did you come up with your carryout menu? Does it mirror your a la carte menus?
EC: We are using product we know we can get without challenge. It’s simple food that can be reheated, utilizing items we have on hand.
For the packages, we are featuring member favorites, though we have had to replace a roasted chicken for fried chicken. (View San Antonio CC’s Carry-Out menu here.)
Q: How are you handling labor to manage carryout orders?
EC: We are limiting our hours to a maximum of 40. There is no overtime of any kind and salaried staff is in house at all times while we are servicing. Reception and catering are taking orders and one or two servers or managers are taking care of delivery to the member car when they arrive for order pickup.
To read more of Chef Eduardo Castillo’s Q&A, click here.
—Clubs across Illinois found themselves facing a new reality when Governor J.B. Pritzker ordered all restaurant and bar owners to close for two weeks to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Some Illinois clubs shifted to delivery, carry out, or curbside service. Others, including the Union League Club of Chicago, were forced to close completely.
Club + Resort Chef’s Joanna DeChellis caught up with the Union League Club’s Executive Chef, Michael Ponzio, to learn about how the club worked to minimize waste in the days leading up to the its closure.
Question: What were some of the first things you did after the mandate was issued?
Michael Ponzio: We took inventory and came up with a plan on how best to minimize waste. We preserved as much as we could, pickled some items and made sauerkraut and homemade giardiniera, too. We made a bunch of soups and froze them for later use. Then we donated 30 cases of fresh vegetables—spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes—as well as other perishable items to the Union League Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago. We’re trying to take every measure possible to protect the the business while also looking out for those in our community.
Q: How is the club handling employees?
A: Legislation passed that said that furloughed employees are given two weeks of sick-time on top of benefits, so that’s really helping all our staff members at this time.
The Union League Club of Chicago was able to donate 30 cases of fresh vegetables and other perishable items to Union League Boys & Girls Clubs.
Q: How are you keeping in touch with your staff?
A: There is a lot of confusion and fear right now. I’m trying to keep in touch with everyone over email, text and phone calls. I’ve told them all, “If you need anything, call me.”
We have no way to predict what the future will look like, but I do know that the whole industry is going to change. Health guidelines will change. Businesses and clubs will have to be more creative in how they operate and connect with members.
Q: What ideas is the club launching to connect with members?
A: We’re launching some video series to send to our members. Our athletics department is working on workout tips of the day. I’m working on recipes of the day and cocktails that can be made during the quarantine. We want to make them still feel like they’re part of the club, even if they can’t physically be here.
To read more about Chef Michael Ponzio, including how he and his wife are coping with raising a newborn during the pandemic, click here.