When the owner of Tarpon Cove Y&RC purchased Spanish Wells CC—located just three miles away—a new “Super Club” with nearly limitless dining options was formed.
When Spanish Wells Country Club, Bonita Springs, Fla., was available for purchase earlier this year, Fort Worth, Texas-based Escalante Golf saw an opportunity too good to pass up.
Tarpon Cove Yacht & Racquet Club and Spanish Wells Country Club
Locations: Naples, Fla.; Bonita Springs, Fla.
The club features 27 holes of championship golf, a new 32,000-sq.-ft. clubhouse with several fine and casual dining venues, bocce courts, a tennis program and a free-standing fitness facility. What’s more, it’s a short three miles from Tarpon Cove Yacht and Racquet Club, another Escalante-owned club in Naples.
“Tarpon Cove has a lot of great amenities and more than 850 members, but we lacked a golf course,” says Mark Nicklas, Regional Director for Escalante Golf and General Manager at both properties. “Spanish Wells, on the other hand, was struggling with its membership numbers and operational strategy, but is a beautiful property with a new clubhouse, wonderful dining facilities and, most critically, 27 holes of golf.”
Escalante could see how easily the clubs would marry and so in March of 2011, the company announced the acquisition of Spanish Wells and set about merging the two clubs to form what Nicklas now calls a “Super Club.”
“It’s really a perfect marriage,” says Nicklas. “Tarpon Cove has everything Spanish Wells lacks, and vice versa. Now, members have full access to both properties. And since purchasing the club, we’ve already increased by 90 memberships at Spanish Wells.”
With two clubs under one umbrella, it was even more important to the success of the operation that the food-and-beverage strategy in each clubhouse be synergistic, while still offering enough variety to keep members interested.
Tackling this ongoing challenge head-on is Richard Montoya, Executive Chef for both properties, who was brought on soon after the acquisition. Nicole Pasek, who was previously F&B Director at Tarpon Cove, was also promoted to F&B Director over both operations to help manage the larger operation. Montoya named a Sous Chef for each property and Pasek did likewise with Dining Room Managers.
“Montoya and Pasek can’t be in two places at the same time,” says Nicklas. “So, we set up the management structure so that each person has a lead person on property at all times.”
The menu and the F&B operational strategy were among the first changes made at Spanish Wells under Escalante.
“Previously, the F&B operation was busy, but it was not profitable,” says Nicklas. “We had to assess the operation as a whole and change some programs that were simply not good for the club. In return, we created new menus for each of the dining rooms, and launched a number of promotions with drink specials and theme nights, to get members excited about coming to the club for lunch and dinner.”
The new menus range from casual to upscale, to serve the two clubs’ varied demographics. “Our average member age ranges from 50-60 at Tarpon Cove and 65-75 at Spanish Wells, so it’s important to recognize culinary trends without taking away familiar comfort foods,” Nicklas says.
By refining the F&B experience at Spanish Wells and expanding it at Tarpon Cove, members now not only have access to better food, but the operation is run more fluidly from a back-of-the-house standpoint, too.
“We were able to streamline the purchasing and POS systems,” says Nicklas, who notes that both clubs run a 36% food cost. “Plus, we’re better equipped to handle banquet business—something we couldn’t do well at Tarpon Cove because of the size of our clubhouse.”
Becoming the Place To Go
Going forward, Nicklas, Montoya and Pasek have big plans to help make dining at either club their members’ first choice. To help with this goal, the clubs are talking about offering a shuttle between the two properties and are also planning to introduce more specials, both to the seasonally rotating menus and the beverage program.
“Tarpon Cove has a really cool Tiki Bar,” says Nicklas. “We’re known for our frozen drinks and our margaritas served in specialty glasses. We are in the process of creating signature drinks for Spanish Wells to be ‘known’ for.”
Now, as an Escalante property, Spanish Wells has a bright future, notes Nicklas. “We won’t change the identity of the club,” he says. “We’ll simply enhance what is already here.”
View a sample dinner menus here.
View a sample drink menu here.