Repositioned layouts have allowed club kitchens to boost productivity, from prep to plate, while accommodating a variety of new ways to provide food-and-beverage service.
After spending the last year readapting menus for fewer caterings and more carryout, kitchen design has required flexibility in layout and space configuration like never before. Clubs that were able to shuffle their a la carte and banquet lines have benefitted from improved service and better output. As in-person dining begins to resume in greater numbers, kitchens that make the best use of their space will be well-positioned to handle an increase in volume for a greater variety of service options.
At Colonial Country Club in Fort Myers, Fla., creating distinct areas for a la carte and banquet service was essential to streamlining the kitchen design. “The club and kitchen in particular needed to be reimagined, to better handle the workload and flow of service that could meet our members’ expectations,” says Executive Chef Todd Warosh. “One [priority] was the ability to continue full a la carte dining service while hosting large functions such as weddings and fundraisers.”
As part of a full club renovation, Colonial’s kitchen reopened in March 2021 with the ability to manage all aspects of the club’s food-and-beverage operation from a better vantage point.
Key to enhancing the now 5,000-sq. ft. kitchen was an expanded footprint with tailored updates. The addition of 800 sq. ft. of new foundation extended a corner of the space by 100 sq. ft. and allotted a sizable portion of the loading dock for permanent coolers and a freezer.
Another major design enhancement was a change (quite literally) in direction: turning the hood system and cook line 90 degrees. This enabled all traffic to go around both sides of the line flow, “instead of having to walk around the ends of it to get through the kitchen,” Walsh notes.
Not only did the cook-line shift enable a separation of a la carte and banquet service and prep, but the decision to increase it to 27 feet made room for new equipment, including a double-stack combi oven, convection ovens, a large sauté station, CVap drawers and an expanded steamtable with carving stations on each end. (Another double-stack CVap cooker, multiple holding boxes, two extra fryers and a high-temperature pizza oven rounded out the equipment list.)
On the banquet line, a custom 24-foot heated plating table creates a designated spot for live plating, while 24 feet of prep tables off the plating line makes space for production carts and other equipment. In addition, a dedicated pastry room for the pastry chef was an essential component to the redesign.
Behind the scenes, the rejiggered layout also warranted updated plumbing and electric work. Long floor drains were installed in prime areas, such as in front of the ice machines, steam-jacketed soup kettles, tilt skillet, CVap cookers and dish-machine area. The original flooring was replaced with a polyaspartic coating featuring colored paint chips chosen for texture and slip resistance.
While Colonial CC has one main kitchen, it can now be divided into multiple areas for service. This flexibility came in particularly handy over the last year when the pandemic shifted the kitchen’s output.
“Our takeout and delivery services did uptick for a while, but that was easily handled in the layout that we set up,” notes Warosh. And even with restrictions in place, the kitchen was able to provide a memorable member-dining experience, he adds. “This allowed us to keep our core kitchen staff through it all, which was crucial in the current employment market,” he says.
Going forward, Colonial is now well set up to adhere to any necessary changes to procedure, offering plenty of room for the cook staff and front-of-house alike. The revamped space has enabled the chef to redesign his menu and better appeal to members’ tastes and dietary needs.
“We are preparing for a blockbuster year in 2022, with possible revenues 35 to 40 percent higher than recent years before the renovation and the pandemic,” notes Warosh.
Streamlined ServiceA need for greater efficiency prompted a complete renovation of the existing kitchen at Rio Verde (Ariz.) Country Club. With a reorganized layout creating more room for additional equipment, the kitchen reopened its doors in June 2019 and has since helped to enhance the club’s dining experience.
To ensure better productivity for both the chefs and servers, the existing layout was revamped for ease of overall operations. According to Director of Food and Beverage Chris Mirza, both the banquet and a la carte lines were rotated ninety degrees to improve the flow of service. “The dish pit (previously located in the back) was also put towards the front of the kitchen to allow wait staff to clear the plates in a timely manner,” Mirza says.
The logistical changes also paved the way for a host of equipment updates. A new freezer, beer cooler and walk-in cooler were added, the latter of which was increased by 100 percent for expanded storage. A tilt skillet, broiler, additional ranges and a steamer were also integrated into the design, to improve banquet service and maintain meal temperature.
“Wine dinners saw the biggest enhancement, which allowed the culinary team to create more high-end items,” notes Mirza. Streamlined equipment layout also improved the quality of a la carte service, resulting in consistent product for membership every time.
On the back end, this series of updates warranted a complete overhaul of the kitchen’s plumbing, electric and flooring. Mirza describes the plumbing enhancements as a “huge improvement.”
“Previously, we would have backups with floor drains and kitchen sinks,” he notes. “Since the update, we have had minimal issues with plumbing and draining.” New electric has eliminated intermittent breaker shutdowns, and original tile flooring with pesky grout has been replaced with an easier-to-clean style.
While Rio Verde’s kitchen has had ample time to reap the benefits of a revitalized kitchen, its usefulness truly kicked into high gear during the height of COVID. “The kitchen handled the shift in business in a superb way,” Mirza says, noting that while a la carte service dropped significantly, the kitchen kept busy fulfilling takeout orders.
“The staff was able to set the a la carte line similar to a banquet line, allowing for a quick a la carte feature to be pushed out the door in minutes,” he adds.
With business back in full force, the rejuvenated kitchen has helped to support the club’s new Box Bar Grille, not only by creating memorable meals for regulars, but also reintroducing others to club dining. F&B sales have seen a 15 to 20 percent increase, thanks to the revived space.
“Since the renovation, we have seen a lot of members come out to dine who have not been to the club in years,” notes Mirza.
The celebration of last year’s 100th anniversary at the Country Club of Salisbury (N.C.) didn’t end in 2020. This past February, the facility kicked off a multiphase renovation project that included improved kitchen efficiency. “We wanted to make an upscale casual dining experience with upgraded functionality and consistency in all spaces,” explains Clubhouse Manager Frank O’Hara.
After developing a centennial campaign team and assessing member feedback on prospective improvement plans, a five-month construction plan was mapped out and demolition began. With members of the committee taking the first few swings, the reimagined culinary space began to take shape and was completed by July.
To accommodate the club’s growing banquet business, the kitchen’s existing footprint required a 500-sq. ft. expansion and a major equipment overhaul; approximately 95 percent of the components were replaced, sparing only the walk-in cooler and freezer. These changes made room for distinct banquet prep and plate-up areas, as well as an upstairs dry-storage area for greater efficiency.
“Leaving a more defined workspace tremendously impacted the flow and space utilization for maximum production,” notes O’Hara.
Behind the scenes, all drain lines were scoped and repaired, while multiple floor drains and centralized cleanouts were added. New equipment necessitated rewired electric throughout the space as well. Because the kitchen services the main dining area along with multiple auxiliary rooms, the prep and production spaces are now better equipped to handle the increased workload that the Salisbury staff now bears.
The kitchen’s updated amenities have proved valuable for members still utilizing pandemic-driven F&B programs. The freezer has housed prepared goods from the newly instituted Take & Bake program, and additional room for warming capabilities meets the demand for to-go orders. More space for dry goods serves as storage for grocery staples and other items available in the club’s Pop-Up Market.
Since the kitchen’s summer re-opening, O’Hara notes a definite surge in F&B services and the club’s surrounding spaces. “Along with the creation of a new menu, specials and bar selection, the membership has gravitated to support the club in this capacity,” he says.
Summing It Up
> Creating more efficient lines for a la carte and banquet services may warrant a shift in their kitchen positioning.
> Reconfigured space can create more room for the addition of new equipment that further enhances productivity as well as culinary capabilities and creativity.
> More equipment may necessitate updated electric, plumbing and flooring.