Despite compact kitchens and limited space, successful snack bars offer a wide range of food-and-beverage fare, as well as an inviting social area.
When members and guests want something quick and easy to eat, they head to the snack bar. What they don’t see when they order their hot dogs or turkey sandwiches, however, is the back-of-house space where all of this speedy food preparation must be done. And anyone in the club industry knows that designing these spaces to operate efficiently is anything but “quick and easy.”
SUMMING IT UP
• Mixing up food-and-beverage fare can help to elevate a snack bar into a destination for members and guests.
Typically, snack bars do not have the space or resources to boast full-sized kitchens, so properties need to think out of the box, to ensure that these spaces can meet members’ and guests’ ever-increasing expectations.
At the same time, snack bars are becoming social hubs. “We are in the hospitality business, and it is short-sighted to believe that we aren’t competing with other hospitality venues,” says Jan Ammons, owner of The Heritage Club in Wake Forest, N.C. “Everyone is trying to provide a full experience in a place that people want to enjoy, relax in and call their own. More and more, it seems like family time is often spent going out to eat. [Creating a snack bar for the entire family] helps to build a family [atmosphere].”
The two comfort stations on the golf course at Gozzer Ranch Golf & Lake Club in Harrison, Idaho, are unique snack bars that reflect the local décor and flavor of the club. They are designed to look like a home kitchen in a rustic ranch. Each station is self-serve and set up with a long countertop, wood cabinets, a porcelain sink, warming and cooling drawers, and a refrigerator. Both stations also have a wall-mounted root beer keg tap, a soft-serve ice cream machine, antique appliances for chilling bottled water, and artwork depicting the local landscape.
Outside the comfort station, a back porch with a full bar and bartender, and bucolic rocking chairs, provides members and guests with a place to enjoy their food and drinks while taking in picturesque views of the golf course.
Just as Gozzer Ranch’s comfort stations are not your average snack bar, the food they offer is not your average snack fare, either. The club’s chef has made the outlets a key component of his culinary program and almost everything that’s served is homemade. Menu items include four types of jerky, tuna and chicken salad, dried fruit, pancetta chips, warm mini-sandwiches, crudités, fresh fruits and root beer floats (a kid favorite).
Creating a Winning Snack Bar
Plan, plan, plan: Do surveys and conduct focus groups to determine what members and guests expect and want from the snack bar.
Hire wisely: Friendly and efficient service is a must.
Cater to all tastes: Mix up snack-bar fare, including staples like hot dogs and chips along with healthy salads, wraps and smoothies. Also, consider creating signature items that are only available through the snack bar, to stimulate demand.
Keep prices competitive: Keeping prices lower for food and—even more importantly—beverages will help you sell more.
“It sets us apart to have these comfort stations,” says Dudley Tomasi, Food and Beverage Manager. “We like to be innovative and do things differently.”
All of the foods are prepared in the clubhouse kitchen located about ¼ mile away. The food is delivered from the main kitchen via warming and cooling carts. The club has culinary staff dedicated to preparing the comfort station fare, and attendants who are responsible for keeping everything well-stocked throughout the day.
“The biggest challenge of managing the comfort stations is keeping them stocked and fresh at the height of the season when we have so many golfers; it’s hard to keep up with the demand,” says Tomasi. To help address the issue during busy times, the club brings on additional culinary staff.
During its recent renovation, The Heritage Club revamped its pool snack bar to serve its almost 400 swim and tennis members. “Our pool facilities are the reason they are members of the club; many of them visit the pool four to five times a week,” says General Manager John Spiess. “They want the opportunity to have different food items to purchase, as well as daily specials.”
One of the key components of the renovation included a kitchen redesign and expansion. “The pool snack bar kitchen was no longer able to meet the needs of a larger membership,” says Spiess.
To address the need for more space and additional equipment, the club took the time to develop a floor plan to make the most efficient use of what was available. The club increased the kitchen square footage from 200 sq. ft. to 450 sq. ft., and reconfigured the space from a simple square shape into three rectangular rooms with adjoining doors.
The main cooking space has an order and pick-up window, along with a point-of-sale computer; an ice cream freezer; a sandwich maker; a newly added pizza oven with four baking racks; two fryers; a flat top; an under-counter freezer; a commercial oven; and a soda dispenser with bag-in-box system. The room behind it contains an ice machine; a three-compartment sink; a commercial two-door freezer; an under-counter refrigerator with a prep area on top; and an iced tea brewing area. The third room houses a new bar area with two beer coolers for craft beer and other types; a sink; another point-of-sale computer; liquor storage; and a large-screen television.
The kitchen expansion has allowed the club to grow its food-and-beverage offerings and, consequently, increase revenue, Spiess reports.
Another goal was to create a more resort-style social atmosphere at the pool snack bar. During the renovation, the club added a comfortable adult-focused area in a new pavilion, set up with soft seating, a gas fireplace and a television. The new pavilion will have six four-person round tables; four soft-seat chairs with two side tables; and a deluxe covered outdoor grill for grilling steaks and seafood and even having pig roasts, as part of special poolside dining events.
“Our renovation and improvements will allow our pool snack bar area to become the social hub of the club for our swim and tennis members,” says Spiess.
Small but Mighty
Located near the golf pro shop at the Pala Mesa Resort in Fallbrook, Calif., sits The Sandwedge—a small, open-air snack bar at the turn. The Sandwedge boasts a friendly patio that overlooks beautiful landscaping. It has two four-tops, an oblong table that can seat up to eight people, curved bench seating, and an awning to provide shade.
“There are often large groups of people out there,” says Brigid Bourgeois, Restaurant Manager. “A lot of the golfers don’t even come into the restaurant or bar; they just want to be at that snack bar.”
The staff runs The Sandwedge efficiently in a tight space, while maintaining top-notch service. It has an order-up window in front and a kitchen area in back. The kitchen houses a small prep space, a sink, a hot dog roller, a grill, snacks and sides set up along the back, a full-size refrigerator, and a beverage refrigerator.
The Sandwedge’s menu offers a wide range of options for golfers, including fresh breakfast sandwiches and burritos, five to six sandwiches, hot dogs, snacks and beverages. And while made-to-order sandwiches are offered, the bulk of the preparation is done in the resort’s restaurant kitchen, because of the snack bar’s compact kitchen space. The restaurant’s kitchen staff then brings the necessary items to the snack bar, and The Sandwedge staff restocks the kitchen every morning.
Golfers also have the option of placing their orders by calling from the course. This allows their food and drinks to be ready as soon as they arrive at the turn—and it allows The Sandwedge staff to use the space efficiently by prepping ahead of time.
Throughout the day, The Sandwedge employees maintain close communication with Bourgeois, to let her know when they are running low on certain items or if they need something restocked. Bourgeois then works with the kitchen team to make sure The Sandwedge gets what it needs to serve the golfers.
The Sandwedge team also operates Pala Mesa’s mobile beverage cart, which makes continuous rounds on the course throughout the day and offers hot and cold beverages and snacks to golfers as they play.