Rethinking kitchen-flow design patterns for each of its clubhouses has helped Forest Highlands GC boost staff efficiency and member satisfaction, and expand year-round business levels.
Seemingly “small” kitchen renovations are making a big impact at Forest Highlands Golf Club.
Forest Highlands Golf Club
Canyon clubhouse kitchen:
The Meadow clubhouse kitchen:
The Flagstaff, Ariz. club has increased food-and-beverage revenue (from just over $1 million to $1.8 million) and, just as importantly, realized higher member-service scores after renovating two clubhouse kitchens and adding a third.
Forest Highlands, with 850 members, boasts two distinct clubhouses, each with its own vibe, dining experiences and foodservice needs.
At the Canyon clubhouse, two dining spaces are serviced by one kitchen. As business grew, and member demographics changed, a more efficient kitchen layout became necessary for improved service and an enhanced member experience.
“In any hospitality operation, designing enough space always seems to come up short,” explains interim General Manager Patty Ashbrook. “The member experience is given the priority, and the back of the house is typically a second thought. We wanted to remedy that.”
The original kitchen design meant service staff had to pass through the formal dining area to serve the club’s more casual bar/lounge area.
The solution—part of a larger, $7.5 million renovation—involved relocating the kitchen entrance and repurposing existing kitchen space. Enclosing part of a loading dock allowed a walk-in refrigerator/freezer to be moved, increasing dry-storage space.
An expanded beverage service area was created by reworking the entrance and converting a former wine room, relieving congestion in the area.
“We reclaimed the wine room, which allowed us to create a more efficient entry point,” explains Ashbrook. “That created a better flow through the kitchen, with fewer turns for the staff.”
The club’s wine offering was also showcased, with a full-view wine wall displaying an expanded bottle count.
The biggest impact, however, was enhancing the member experience by rerouting wait staff out of dining areas, notes Swaback Partners’ Lee Finch, Lead Architect on the project.
The club also extended dining availability. Before the renovation, dining was unavailable during the October-to-May offseason, except for special events. But changing member demographics prompted Forest Highlands to open a restaurant on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, year ‘round.
Over time, the club has seen a shift away from older clientele who were spending most of their winters in the warmth of Phoenix, to a younger customer base that wants to take advantage of Flagstaff’s winter activities. In response, Forest Highlands has increased its winter programming, and the redesigned kitchen has helped to keep pace with the additional business.
Efficiency was also an important goal of the Canyon kitchen renovation, to accommodate the larger number of seats in the expanded lounge area. “Everything had to be built for speed,” notes Ashbrook. “When you are increasing the number of seats without increasing the pure [kitchen] production area, it needed to be right.”
The redesign also improved foodservice during the club’s longstanding Friday night “cool down” event, held when residents escape the Phoenix heat for Flagstaff’s more temperate environment. The club opens the Canyon clubhouse doors for a “massive” party on the newly expanded covered patio that typically involves up to 5,000 covers, according to Swaback’s Lee Finch.
In the Meadow
Forest Highland’s second clubhouse—The Meadow—boasts a more casual dining experience, as well as the club’s family entertainment center. For this facilityi, a “proper” pizza line with cold storage was built into the existing kitchen, to support popular weekly pizza nights, plus a booming takeout business.
“At times, because of the space we were trying to do it out of, we were overpromising and underdelivering as far as the service experience,” notes Ashbrook. “Knowing what people wanted, the enhancement of this area was a significant improvement.”
As with the Canyon kitchen renovation, existing space was repurposed to increase storage. New 20’ x 30’ space was also created with the construction of an additional small kitchen, to service members poolside in the family recreation center. It serves up hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken fingers, salads, sandwiches and grilled items, and that meant acquiring new equipment, including a hot dog roller, flat top, broiler, fryers, and ice cream maker, plus a reach-in freezer and coolers.
Previously, servers transported food orders—placed by members via phone—from the existing kitchen to the remote pool area. With the addition of the new kitchen, food is ordered, prepared and served in the same poolside area.
Design partner Reverie West incorporated a “mountain feel” to the new construction’s exterior, applying “super durable” wood planking in “fun” colors, according to owner/senior designer Sherry Engle. The look reflects the architecture of surrounding homes and the natural beauty of the Flagstaff area’s surrounding mountains.
“For us, it was all about providing a higher level of service and a better product,” says Ashbrook. “Over time and the growth of our membership, we’d never really done a significant renovation to [kitchen] areas. So [the renovations] brought us up to date with what was needed to deliver that level of service.” C+RB