As menus grow more refined, so must dining spaces, prompting many club properties to expand the reach of food-and-beverage service to patios and terraces.
Club properties around the country are embracing diversity—not only in changing member demographics, but also by expanding amenities, facilities, and dining and menu offerings. And through smart design, designated spaces within the clubhouse that have their own personalities—from formal to casual to family-oriented—can be created to allow different groups to mingle in the environments they prefer.
SUMMING IT UP
• Through fresh design and even a separate menu, outdoor dining spaces can provide opportunities to bring a more youthful energy to the club.
• Portable heaters, firepits, complimentary blankets and even custom enclosures ensure that outdoor dining spaces can be used year-round, maximizing the club’s return on investment.
• Design elements can create continuity between adjoining indoor and outdoor spaces, while also setting them apart.
It’s not uncommon to find both formal and casual dining venues at club properties, but outdoor dining spaces can be an entirely different animal. Seating options are often more diverse, fusing modular outdoor furniture with tables and chairs that are suitable for dining. Finding the right balance in the design of an outdoor dining space can make all the difference in creating the venues that members want.
It became clear in 2012 that the facilities at The Hills of Lakeway in Austin, Texas needed to be refreshed to appeal to a changing membership.
“As with most golf clubs, our membership started to get very mature, so part of the reason we did the reinvention was to be more attractive to a broader age group of clientele,” says General Manager Ron Woolard. “This whole area has roots of being a retirement village, but now with [new] local school systems, our growth has gone in a family-focused direction.”
Woolard has been in the GM position at The Hills of Lakeway for about three months, and notes that he helped to oversee a similar renovation at his previous ClubCorp property, Las Colinas (Texas) Country Club.
“As a company, ClubCorp started reinventing our clubhouses, by helping us drive not only relevancy to the member, but also more participation through their dining at the club,” Woolard says. “It is also helping both retention and new sales, because the space looks and feels fresher.”
The Hills of Lakeway offers five clubhouses, two of which are primarily dining properties, to serve its diverse membership of 3,200 households. The Hills Country Club clubhouse offers about 70 percent of all club dining, making it the focus of the reinvention. The club expanded the outdoor dining space to take advantage of the golf course view, with the space now totaling 1,500 sq. ft. and providing room for 48 members.
Through the reinvention, the clubhouse was “more or less gutted,” Woolard says, with more dining space, all of which is served from the same kitchen, added inside and out. The result, he reports, has been an increase in dining participation by more than 50 percent.
The updated space begins in the Anytime Lounge, with casual seating, highboys, TVs and a bar. It then leads into the linen-less indoor casual member dining space, which in turn opens up to the outside patio.
The patio is furnished with a mix of modular pieces that incorporate what Director of Operations Catherine Ferrell refers to as a “1970s” color scheme—oranges and browns, with pale green stripes, plush furniture around firepits, and blonde striped tile on the floor. For comparison, the dining room offers more neutral shades, while the patio provides bolder pops of color.
Thanks to mild Texas weather, the terrace is open year-round, equipped with fans for when temperatures climb, and portable heaters, firepits and complimentary blankets for cooler times. A portable bar can be moved outside for cocktail parties and tournament-season events.
Around the Hearth
When an outdoor space is available year-round, it helps to maximize the club’s return on investment. Properties have multiple options for keeping patios, terraces and decks warm. There are four primary types of outdoor patio heating systems:
• Electric—Available in wall-mounted, ceiling-mounted or freestanding models, these systems operate with the use of an electrical cord, or must be hard-wired directly into the building’s electrical system. Benefits: easy to use, and the heat that is emitted is not affected by wind or other drafty conditions.
• Propane—Operates with the use of disposable propane cylinders. Many of these heaters are designed to sit on a tabletop in the center of a patio or outdoor lounging area. Most produce enough warmed air to heat an 8- or 10-foot diameter. Benefit: portability.
• Natural Gas—A stationary version of the propane outdoor heater, this type of outdoor heating system operates in much the same manner as a propane heating system. But these heaters must hook into a natural gas connection and be installed by a professional with experience in this area of HVAC. Benefit: no need to worry about propane or gas tanks running out of fuel.
• Fire pit/fireplace—Requires some precautions to reduce safety risks. The area where fire pits and outdoor fireplaces are positioned must be constructed of a masonry material, as wood can easily catch on fire and other patio materials can be at risk of melting. Benefits: attractive, creates a soothing environment.
Source: Top 100 Energies
As part of the reinvention, the club has added entertainment options to the new space and now offers “date night” babysitting. “We program the heck out of our new space, to amplify the energy,” Woolard says.
As for the food, the indoor and outdoor spaces share the same menu—American fare, with an emphasis on seafood for upscale dinners. The food-and-beverage staff changes the menu every three months, swapping out about 40 items in response to member demographic changes.
The updated space has seen 30 percent more covers, Woodard reports, and a la carte check averages have grown by about 25 percent.
“We wanted to add a new energy that’s different from the typical country club approach of the past,” he says. “We wanted to be more interesting and more challenging, with cool culinary offerings. It has been both fun and exhausting.”
In March 2014, Pinebrook Country Club in Winston-Salem, N.C., was purchased by Lynn and Lynette Murphy, who then changed the club’s name to Maple Chase Golf & Country Club. The property’s dining establishment, The Pinebrook Grill, is a callback to the club’s former identity.
As soon as the Murphys assumed ownership, they launched renovations throughout the property, including updates to the patio, which extends from The Pinebrook Grill. Originally built in 2000, the patio had been “severely neglected,” says Membership Coordinator Dee Morton. It has now been enhanced, with a new stone wall surrounding it that still allows members to view the golf course and putting green.
Measuring approximately 2,000 sq. ft. and seating about 60 people, the space is an extension of the club’s indoor dining space. With neutral colors, the patio blends well with the remainder of the clubhouse, Morton says. Concrete lines the floors, while the patio is decorated with natural teak wood tables and chairs with beige canvas seats and backs, and light brown umbrellas for sun protection.
A stone gas fireplace serves as a focal point. “This has been a wonderful enhancement to the patio,” Morton says. “When the weather permits, we have several members who prefer to dine out on the patio, in order to take in the fresh air and beautiful view.”
The Troon-managed Audubon Country Club, in Naples, Fla., features an outdoor space with a modern look, offering a “country club casual” dining menu to members during the day, says General Manager Michael Rodriguez, PGA.
To further utilize this popular space, Rodriguez is hoping to continue to increase the food-and-beverage operation to take advantage of the mild year-round temperatures. A fully functional satellite kitchen dedicated to the club’s Courtside Cafe also feeds the outdoor space.
The covered patio mirrors the exterior of the clubhouse, incorporating a shade of tea-rose pink textured on the walls, with clean, sharp white lines in the ceiling, columns and trim. White furniture against a light wood bar with stone countertop and flooring creates a crisp look.
Light gray-striped curtains can be used to enclose the space, whether to protect members from the sun or drizzling rain. The same light gray is incorporated into patterns on pillows that decorate the white couches, made all the more striking by pops of green from surrounding palm trees.
In addition to being where members can relax and dine, the outdoor space hosts special dining events, such as “Music on the Patio” and themed buffet events. The space is also used to serve lunch and dinner for golf tournaments.
With an emphasis on hosting events, Springfield (Pa.) Country Club benefits from creating an atmosphere that feels like an escape to a far-off resort.
Open to the public, Tavola Restaurant + Bar was recently renovated on the property to create “a true suburban oasis” for the club that is located outside of Philadelphia. The 7,000-sq. ft. space was refined through a multimillion-dollar project that now includes dining tables and chairs; high-top tables and bar stools; modular lounge furniture with cushions and pillows in the bar and fire pit areas; multiple flat-screen TVs; heat lamps; and even palm trees that further enhance the vacation feel.
“We wanted to give our guests a dining, bar and lounge experience like no other in the area,” says Marketing Director Carly Spross. “When guests come to Tavola, they feel like they are on vacation at a resort. It’s an escape that’s just minutes from home.”
The décor of the outdoor space complements the rest of the club, but also defines Tavola as its own unique space, says Spross. The furniture incorporates bronze, beige, and rust colors. To allow for outdoor dining year-round, the property installed an elaborate custom enclosure, as well as heaters.
Monthly live entertainment includes acoustic music by local musicians. Nine luxury hotel suites are being developed along with a retreat spa and salon, scheduled to open in the spring.