At Farmington CC, COO/GM Joe Krenn and Executive Chef Michael Matarazzo, CEC, are creating a new food-and-beverage identity through special touches that include a food truck, new outdoor dining space, and the club’s own beer and (soon) honey.
Outstanding managers share a handful of absolutes. They operate with a sound strategic mindset. They’re intuitive, consistent and steady. They’re trustworthy and honest. They value their team’s time and surround themselves with talented people they continue to develop.
Joe Krenn, CCM, Chief Operating Officer and General Manager of Farmington Country Club (Charlottesville, Va.), is one such example. Krenn has been with the club for a little more than four years and during that time, F&B at Farmington has grown from $4 million to $5.1 million. Krenn attributes this growth to a dynamic food-and-beverage team that’s led by Executive Chef Michael Matarazzo, CEC.
“One of my primary goals is to follow the advice of Henry Kissinger, who said, ‘The task of a leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been,’” Krenn says. “I believe in mentoring my team members so they can be a catalyst in delivering impressive results.”
C2C: As you began the process of hiring a chef two years ago, what were you looking for?
JK: I wanted someone who: knew how to build a team; understands where culinary trends are going, but also understands the dynamics of a traditional Southern club; was able to look past our physical challenges and come up with smart ways to elevate our operation; and has a positive attitude and would be willing to roll up his or her sleeves and get to work.
C2C: You’ve worked with two Master Chefs over the course of your career. Did that influence what you were looking for in a chef?
JK: Absolutely. I was extremely fortunate to work with both J. Kevin Walker, CMC [Director of Food, Service & Clubhouse Operations at Grandfather Golf & Country Club in Linville, N.C.] as well as Daniel Scannell, CMC [most recently Executive Chef of The Sanctuary Golf Club in Sanibel, Fla.]. I wanted someone who aspired to that same level of excellence.
C2C: How did you know Matarazzo was the one?
JK: His demeanor, his temperament and his outlook on life are all so positive. It was clear that he would fit into our culture and be able to connect with a wide variety of people. He was out to prove that he could build a strong culinary team and work in challenging situations. His food is also outstanding and while that’s important, he brought so many more things to the table beyond great food.
C2C: Where have you seen the biggest impact?
JK: Farmington’s kitchen is not just filled with cooks; we now have culinarians. Chef Matarazzo inspires the people who work for him. And because of that we’re able to attract talented culinarians from all over the country. He’s deeply passionate about what he does, and you can taste that in the food.
C2C: Did he hit the ground running?
JK: He did, and his impact has been incredible. He listens to members. He handles the team expertly and he’s been progressive in changing our food scene here at Farmington. He’s almost too good to be true. About six months after he started, my wife and I were driving in the car and I said to her, ‘I can’t find this guy’s Achilles heel.’ She said, ‘Stop looking.’
C2C: How has the culinary culture changed at Farmington?
JK: The kitchen is no longer an entity, it has a personality, especially since the grill has an open kitchen. Chef and his leadership team are also on the floor talking to members and listening to their requests.
Over the past two years, we’ve evolved into a dining destination. Members come to the club to eat, instead of eating because they’re already at the club.
C2C: You also recently did a renovation, right?
JK: Yes. We renovated one of our dining rooms and added an outdoor patio. That has also contributed to our growth.
C2C: How do the numbers reflect that growth?
JK: In 2014, from January through May 1, the grill did 28,000 covers. This year, from mid-January when we reopened through May 2, we’ve done 32,000 covers. In the same timeframe in our Blue Ridge room, we did 500 covers in 2014, and this year we’ve done 5,000.
C2C: How do you support Chef Matarazzo, [F&B Manager] Tyler Pickens and [F&B Service Manager] Brandon Johnson?
JK: I stay out of their way! Seriously, though, I view my role—and the role of our CFO and HR Manager—as support staff for all of Farmington’s department heads. They tell us what they need, they give us their vision, and together we find ways to make it happen.
C2C: What do you value most about Chef Matarazzo?
JK: He has far exceeded my expectations of where we’d be with our culinary program by this point. He’s truly been a partner in this process.
C2C: What are your biggest F&B challenges?
JK: First, labor. There are only 140,000 people in Charlottesville, so attracting local talent is challenging.
Then there’s the challenge of moving the club past the idea that “this is the way we’ve always done it.” Before, our grill menu had 600 ingredients on it. We’ve since cut that menu in half, and we change it quarterly. That’s a huge shift for members, so it’s taken time to build confidence to the point where they’re now comfortable trying new things, as well as asking for something that might not be on the menu.
C2C: Farmington has done some trendy things with F&B, like Your food truck. Where did that idea come from?
JK: Before we started the renovation, we needed to come up with a way to maintain food service. So we had a roundtable discussion with the F&B leadership team. [Brandon Johnson] said, ‘What about a food truck?’ We all sat there for a minute scratching our heads, then we figured out how to do it.
C2C: What did the membership think?
JK: The membership is supportive of our ideas and we have gained their confidence in our abilities. They also know if we fall short of our own expectations, we will take immediate corrective action and learn from the challenge. I jokingly tell my team when we are about to try something new, “We will either be heroes or zeros, so let’s be the best at one!”
C2C: You have another hero idea that is taking the club by storm, right? Tell us about Farmington’s 1927 beer.
JK: We thought it would be really cool to have our own signature beer. So we went to a local beer maker, Champion Brewery, and told him what we wanted to do. We didn’t want to have a common beer with just our label on it. We wanted it to be our signature beer, so they created a Czech pilsner blend for us that we called “1927” [after the year the club was founded]. We unveiled it in January and now it is our top-selling beer. Our production order has gone from 10 barrels to over 20 at a time, and we are currently in production with cans.
C2C: What’s Farmington’s next big F&B idea?
JK: Farmington honey! Chef partnered with one of our Golf Superintendents and we recently started our own beehives.