The banquet menus at Musket Ridge GC serve as road maps for guests planning weddings and events.
When Affinity Management came to Musket Ridge Golf Club, an upscale daily-fee course in Frederick County, Md., the firm encouraged the club to add a large banquet and wedding facility to the property and abandon plans to add another nine holes of golf.
“This was a very unusual combination in 2007, because banquet rooms are historically at country clubs or resorts,” says Damon DeVito, Affinity’s Managing Director. “We estimated it was the 17th of its type in the U.S. at that time. There are more now, but not tons.”
The addition paid off: In 2008, Musket Ridge did a little over $388,000 in banquets, and in 2015, banquet income exceeded $751,000.
“Weddings are more than half of Musket Ridge’s revenue and have benefitted the entire operation,” says DeVito. “We can afford a much better executive chef, as weddings support his salary. Even the hot dogs are better now.”
That chef is Kyle Roberson, who came to the club on the heels of the banquet hall opening and has been instrumental in the club’s success.
“Banquets represent 80 percent of our business,” says Roberson, who was drawn to Musket Ridge specifically for the opportunity to build its event business from the ground up. “We offer guests dozens of different types of menus, depending on what type of event they’re having.
“We have menus for weddings, banquets, rehearsal dinners, breakfasts, lunches and golf outings,” Roberson explains. “But our philosophy is to treat these menus as a guide or an icebreaker. Our Event Sales Manager, Bonnie Swanson, and I work hand-in-hand with each guest. Sometimes they know what they want, other times they don’t. The menus give us a place to start.”
Swanson is the primary liaison for all of the event details at Musket Ridge. Meanwhile, Roberson focuses on building a menu, with an eye toward execution.
“Quality is our top priority, so when we build a custom menu for a guest, we have to be careful in making sure the things they want are scalable,” he says.
Once a year, Roberson overhauls Musket Ridge’s banquet menus, removing dishes that aren’t selling, adjusting those that need to be updated and adding new, more salable items wherever possible.
“We try to offer seasonal choices,” says Roberson, who feels that the variety of menus, the flexibility of the club and the premium it puts on one-on-one service help Musket Ridge appeal to a broader demographic. “We set ourselves apart from our competitors by customizing each event and being willing to work with our guests on their menu choices.”
As for the financials, Roberson, who runs between a 23% and 26% food cost, prices according to the big picture.
“There are some dishes that are very cost-effective,” he says. “But we don’t push guests into choosing something they don’t want. We can always adjust somewhere else to fit their budget and still hit our numbers.”