Expanded and redesigned kitchens are cooking up good business, as clubs increase their F&B margins while bringing new efficiencies to their food-preparation processes.
Outfitting a club or resort kitchen is a tall order, and one that calls for an approach to laying out the space with an eye toward efficiency for both chefs and servers. Whether accommodating a large-scale operation that manages year-round banquet and a la carte service, or a smaller outfit that is largely dependent on a strong seasonal business, a property must carefully weigh its design options thoughtfully, to create a properly scaled facility.
As clubs assess members’ needs for more casual dining and improved service, kitchen renovations are helping to enhance the overall dining experience, from start to a satisfying finish.
Efficiency on the Menu
Renovating the existing kitchen space at Evansville (Ind.) Country Club was a must in a facility that had outgrown its usefulness. “We decided to do the renovations to improve the flow in our a la carte kitchen, and to add a hood to the banquet kitchen so that we could have stoves and fryers,” says General Manager Gary Shetler. The redesigned spaces were completed this past April.
While the club’s banquet and a la carte kitchens have maintained their original footprints (750 and 3,000 square feet, respectively), the way they function has changed significantly. The cooking areas have been reconfigured and are now only accessible by cooks, chefs and dishwashers—an improvement that has resulted in greater efficiency.
The pantry area now has its own dedicated room, with counter access for servers. Several ovens, a smoker and new walk-in coolers and freezers have helped to streamline both cooking and storage needs.
In the banquet kitchen, new refrigeration and the installment of a hood have also contributed to enhanced productivity. “Previously we didn’t have a hood or gas lines in the banquet kitchen; we just had holding ovens and no coolers,” explains Shetler.
The addition of walk-in coolers and shelves on wheels foster easy transport of salads and desserts to banquet areas or buffets, saving the kitchen precious time. “We can easily serve 500 meals out of each kitchen on a daily basis; previously we could only handle about 600 meals total,” Shetler notes.
During the redesign, the club needed to make special concessions to accommodate member dining. “We had to get creative on dining space, as the banquet kitchen is close to our smaller banquet rooms,” notes Shetler.
Since the renovation of the Evansville CC kitchen was completed, overall business has increased by 10 percent—something that Shetler credits primarily to more efficient service. “Members are now getting their food quicker, and it’s hotter than it used to be,” he notes.
Creativity On Display
A new display kitchen opened last November at Toscana Country Club in Indian Wells, Calif., along with the club’s La Cucina restaurant, to offer an informal dining option to members. General Manager John Cochrane, PGA, cites the “monumental shifts over the past decade, as country club members are looking for a casual, family-friendly, fun and wellness-driven experience, in addition to golf,” as the primary impetus behind designing the new restaurant and kitchen.
Culling input from focus groups that included over 200 members, a special kitchen was designed for La Cucina that offers a glimpse into the entire food-prep operation. “A display kitchen adds an instant formality to a space, creates a unique dining experience and is also a new way for members to connect with team members who are rarely seen at the club,” Cochrane says in lauding the benefits of this design choice.
At 8,300 square feet, the generously sized display kitchen follows a traditional, European-style cooking-suite format. Separate hot and cold food lines meet in the middle and dishes are then expedited to the servers, fueling the rate at which they can be prepared and served.
An array of stainless-steel cooktops, grills and ovens have been laid out to boost efficiency, set against a backdrop of quartzite natural-stone countertops and prep surfaces. LED lighting encased in a tin-like ceiling offers visual detail, while providing adequate illumination for finishing touches.
While a pasta maker and pasta fryer each play an important role in meal prep for La Cucina, they are arguably underscored by the new kitchen’s piece de resistance: a wood-burning pizza oven station, at which chefs shape the dough and pull freshly baked pizzas.
Because approximately one-third of the kitchen is comprised of glass, including two electronic sliding doors, diners are treated to an upfront view of the action. “They can also see the cooktops and watch searing and grilling, along with the finishing of all the dishes prior to them going out,” says Cochrane.
Because Toscana CC’s other restaurant was open during the construction of La Cucina’s display kitchen, members did not experience any disruption of service. And now, both members and management are delighted by the newest addition to the club’s dining options; according to Cochrane, the first season exceeded the club’s revenue goals for the new venue.
“Members love the new restaurant and the opportunity to connect with fellow members, their family and friends in a casual environment with relaxed attire,” he notes.
Small But Powerful
Going from a basic menu that was essentially comprised of hot dogs to a more established casual eatery was the end result of the kitchen renovation at Melody Hill Country Club in Harmony, R.I. After new ownership took over in the spring of 2017, the facility underwent a significant overhaul.
“The facility was very outdated, including the course conditions,” says Steve Landi, a Regional General Manager for Tri State Golf Company, which manages Melody Hill. Landi describes the club-wide project as a “complete property refurbishing” that included its kitchen and concession stand.
Working in a relatively modest footprint, the 450-sq. ft. kitchen, originally comprised of a home-style stove that made hot dogs, now boasts an oven, commercial stove, grill, flat top, fry-o-lator, steam table, prep table and refrigeration. “We were very limited with what we could add to the building without a major excavation, so it is still a small kitchen,” Landi notes.
Knocking down a wall in an old storage area opened up the space to create a dishwashing line, while dry storage is housed near the dish line.
While a new ventilation system was installed to service kitchen equipment, management opted not to add heating and air conditioning, due to the seasonality of the club’s business. “Plenty of heat and AC comes into the kitchen via the opening from the original building,” Landi explains. “It does get a little warm in the summer, but it is not unbearable.”
Thanks to its revamped kitchen, Melody Hill is now able to offer an expanded menu of burgers, salads, grilled chicken sandwiches, onion rings, chicken wings and mozzarella sticks. And given its close proximity to an outdoor concession area (see photo above), which houses refrigeration for cold beverages and a fountain unit, along with a hot dog dog steamer, golfers can now access those items through a quick pick-up at the turn.
Melody Hill members can now also partake of foodservice throughout the duration of their day on the property. “We are now able to take care of outings of up to 100+ players, and our leagues in the evening can now stay for dinner after golf,” Landi says.
Going forward, management has an optimistic outlook for future growth because of how the club is better positioned to handle members’ casual-dining needs. “We are seeing a steady increase in business, month over month and year to date,” notes Landi. “It is starting to get out there that Melody Hill is in better condition and now offers a nice dining experience after golf.”
With the calendar filling up fast with local outings, Landi is encouraged by all of the buzz that Melody Hill has been receiving. “We are also getting calls from leagues that want to book for next season,” he notes.