Savvy club and resort properties are carefully crafting takeout programs that feed hungry members and bolster bottom lines.
Offering a stellar takeout or to-go service as part of an overall F&B program can be a definite win for clubs and resorts. It can bolster participation, improve customer satisfaction, and help to attract new members to the core business. It’ a also a cost-effective, high-return way to ring up more sales.
What’s more, your members and guests are likely expecting it—and if you don’t provide it, they’ll take their dining dollars somewhere that will.
“The driving force behind the increase in our takeout program has been driven simply by member demand,” says David Webb, General Manager of the 433-member Corral de Tierra (Calif.) Country Club.
Having a takeout program that offers both quality and value is pivotal. How profitable it will be for individual properties, however, will be determined by their ability to maintain the integrity of their product while delivering the convenience members and guests demand.
SUMMING IT UP
• When it comes to takeout, order accuracy matters most.• How takeout orders are handled and how takeout food is prepared, packaged and delivered must be just as enjoyable as when the meal is served in the clubhouse.
• On the takeout side, too, members are looking for healthier options, variety, affordability—and above all, conveni
“If we can do something to be a dining consideration to our members, we’ll do it,” asserts Webb, who notes that casual-type items, such as burgers and fries, seem to be the biggest takeout sellers.
Covering Takeout’s Costs
“Know your competition” is always a sound philosophy. Dan Iammarino, Executive Chef at Country Club of the South in Alpharetta, Ga., surely does—but he’s not wasting too much time looking over his shoulder. “It’s important to our members that I spend my time finding the best possible ingredients and creating the best possible menu,” says Iammarino, who aims to keep his overall food cost between 30% to 33%. To keep costs in line when it comes to takeout, the club charges $1 extra to cover packaging. So a filet, including a choice of two sides, is menued at $32, or $33 for takeout.
Takeout in the club world doesn’t always mean buying club-made meals to eat elsewhere, though. Sometimes it can also mean buying club-made meals to eat in other parts of the club.
At Country Club of the South, some members will order items from the dining room to enjoy at the pool, and that’s just fine with Iammarino. “If they want two steaks, medium-rare, and they aren’t eating in the clubhouse, we’ll run the food up to them at the pool or wherever they are on property,” he says. “We’re here to serve our members.”
Running Hot and Cold
Food quality and safety during packaging, transport and reheating is a big concern when it comes to takeout or to-go service.
Chefs like Iammarino have done their homework by searching for the best packaging available, with an eye to cost and recycling as well as to temperature maintenance and reheatability.
“Primarily, we use plastic containers that are very durable,” Iammarino points out. “They hold heat very well and are microwaveable, although not ovenable.”
When packaging food for delivery, chefs advise making sure that the containers will withstand transport without leaking or breaking, and keeping the hot foods packed away from cold ones. Make sure foods will stay at safe temperatures while traveling, too.
Clubs looking to bolster their takeout/to-go business should also be sure to provide paper takeout menus whenever possible. At Country Club of the South, when a takeout meal is being packaged, a copy of the menu is included in each takeout order for future reference. “It’s a great marketing tool,” notes Iammarino.
The Voice on the Phone
Savvy clubs and resorts understand the pivotal role that the order-taking and delivery process plays in takeout success. Even if the food is yummy, inept customer service can doom the entire enterprise.
At Country Club of the South, Jonathan Nalls, the designated “to-go” manager, is “the voice” of this service. “It’s important that the person answering the phone knows the guest by name, so the member feels comfortable,” Iamarrino says. “Jonathan tells them when the order will be ready—usually between 15 and 25 minutes. Then, for pick-up, the order is at the front door, where a staff member greets the member by name.”
That personal touch drives the club’s takeout business. “It’s what separates us from the chains,” says Iammarino.
At Orange Blossom Hills Golf & Country Club, located in The Villages, Fla., Chip Rice, Executive Chef, also puts the highest priority on the ordering and pick-up process at this public club.
“We promote takeout on our daily ‘specials’ sheets, plus we run ads three times a week in the local newspapers, to attract people beyond our regulars,” says Rice. “Takeout is about 3 to 5% of our total sales; on Fridays, it’s about 5%, and in inclement weather it can be up to 10% of our total sales.
“For consistency, it’s usually the same person per shift taking the phone orders, to make sure we get them right,” he continues. The order then goes to the bartender who keys it into the POS system, streamlining the process so that only special requests are hand-written.
“There are then two different checkpoints,” Rice adds, “to make sure the order is accurate and that the hot food is hot and the cold food is cold.” The first checkpoint is the expediter, or “expo,” who is positioned on the other side of the line when the tray is set up. Then the bartender checks again in the pick-up area behind the bar, where all orders are lined up with the corresponding checks.
“The simpler the system, the easier it is to be accurate,” Rice says. The completed order is ready for pickup within 15 to 30 minutes. The actual pick-up from the bartender is usually a one minute process, including payment by cash or credit card.
No Questions Asked
Staff training is another key to smooth operations at Orange Blossom Hills. Rice devotes time to both back- and front-of-house training, to ensure seamless takeout service.
“We write ‘Takeout’ clearly on the ticket, and all to-go containers are right there at the station within reach,” he reports. “We dome the plate and include high-quality plastic utensils that are strong enough to cut a prime rib.
“While probably about 80% of guests take the order home, that’s just another question you’d have to ask—utensils or not?—that could slow things up. So we don’t ask, we just provide them.”
Because he’s packing the food at the right temperature in insulated packaging for immediate consumption, Rice feels it’s not necessary to include reheating instructions. However, if he knows an order is intended for later consumption, he does provide that information.
“We have one gentleman who buys 10 orders of chicken parmesan each month,” he notes. “So we put a sticker on the package with oven and microwave heating instructions.”
Takeout Meets Catering
Drop-off catering—a cross between takeout and traditional catering—provides solid additional sales for Orange Blossom Hills, while benefitting those who want to avoid the expense of paying for staffing. “This month we’re doing a dinner for 100; we’ll drop it off at the community recreation center, and they’ll serve themselves,” Rice explains.
To-go service, as well as drop-off catering, provides an advantage for residents—and the club. “With 94 restaurants within 15 miles of the club, you’ve got to make money; but you have to keep it as competitive as possible to get the sale,” Rice says. “Drop-offs give you good exposure to draw people’s dining dollars.”
In more and more club and resort locations—including Timarron Country Club, a ClubCorp-managed property in Southlake, Texas—all items on the regular clubhouse menu are now also being made available for takeout. Timarron’s Executive Chef, Craig Ford, aims to steadily increase his takeout business among the club’s 700 members in the coming year, and providing the full spectrum of menu choices, he feels, is key to making sure his diners don’t go elsewhere for their to-go purchases.
“We provide a competitive product for a similar price point [as commercial restaurants], but ours tastes better,” says Ford. “We’re able to run a higher food cost than restaurants, so the quality of our product provides better value for members’ dollars.”
Use It or Lose It
In club locations where members have minimums, crunch time in the kitchen is all but inevitable. “We’re ready for it at the end of each month, and we know it will be crazy,” says Iammarino at Country Club of the South. “Members will use to-go [to eat up their minimums], especially if the end of the month is mid-week. I think there’s a positive attitude about this, from the chef to the dishwasher; we know we’ll all pull together and have fun with it.”
But at Corral de Tierra, Webb doesn’t see a huge impact on business, either for dining-in or takeout, at the end of each minimum spending period. “We have four cycles that are last name [alphabetically]-driven,” he explains. “May to November is our season, so those spending cycles occur in our non-season months.”
Spacing out cycles helps Corral de Tierra avoid a final push—for takeout especially—from members looking to spend their minimums in the 11th hour.
Increased takeout business is not all gravy for some private clubs, depending on their tax status, Corral de Tierra’s General Manager David Webb cautions.
“We are a 501(c)(7) not-for-profit corporation, and all takeout revenues are considered non-member revenues,” he explains. “Because that revenue is considered outside income, there are restrictions on how much we can take in on an annual basis—no more than 15% of total revenues.”
Other outside revenue can be earned from spending by guests brought by members, or from non-member weddings or other instances, and this must also all be put into the 15% “bucket.” So takeout revenue must be monitored carefully, to make sure it doesn’t take the total non-member tally past the threshold.