Outdoor dining and drinking spots need to not only look inviting, but work efficiently, too.
These days, it’s not enough to provide great eats, refreshing beverages and a fabulous view from outdoor dining establishments. While creating memorable meals and providing comfortable ambiance for the members and guests who use these venues, club and resort properties must also orchestrate an efficient workflow for staff. Fine-tuning a design that achieves both goals is essential to maintaining outdoor dining space that will have patrons coming back for a second helping.
Taking the Long ViewAt Indian Creek Yacht & Country Club in Kilmarnock, Va., enhancing the already-lush outdoor experience was a major factor in adding onto the clubhouse. General Manager Brian Darlak credits the club’s Willow Oaks Terrace for “providing an outdoor dining venue that takes advantage of the views of the golf course and Indian Creek.” The year-long construction project commenced in May 2017 and was completed in time for a Memorial Day-weekend ribbon-cutting ceremony the following year.
Nestled between the clubhouse and the pool, this facility serves as the club’s only fixed outdoor dining venue, with service from May through October. Thanks to its close proximity to the main kitchen in the clubhouse, operations run smoothly and share the same menu as Skipjack, Indian Creek’s casual eatery. A notable feature is the outdoor covered grill station just off the terrace, which allows chefs to prepare fresh dishes for special occasions.
A smattering of dining tables with cushioned chairs for 48 offers a cozy mix, with soft seating for eight around a propane fueled firepit. (Additional portable propane heaters can be added as needed.) A flexible layout permits this space to be reconfigured—adjusting or removing tables—for club events. “When the terrace is used for an event, we inform the membership that the space is booked, and we do not offer a la carte dining in the space,” notes Darlak.
Because the terrace is neither enclosed nor fully covered, outdoor dining is at the mercy of the elements. “We deal with what Mother Nature brings us,” says Darlak. Seating is outfitted with water-resistant cushions, and tables are immediately wiped down following sudden downpours. Protection from the sun is provided by a pergola roof, with ceiling fans helping to circulate the sultry air.
Having completed its first full season in operation, management has not yet seen any major increases in net food and beverage sales. However, efforts are being made to boost terrace usage in the coming months, including Memorial Day, Independence Day and the club’s First Friday live-music events.
In the meantime, Indian Creek’s membership is enjoying the expansive view of the golf course and the water. “They really take advantage of the space in the shoulder season, when the weather is more cooperative,” Darlak notes.
A Gainesville GemAt the Chattahoochee Country Club in Gainesville, Ga., a recent renovation of the aquatic center included a revamped snack bar and a brand-new poolside dining pavilion with full-service bar. This comprehensive construction project was a direct result of input from the club’s planning committee focus groups. “We learned that our membership wanted an open-air dining facility; there are not many options in Gainesville for that type of dining,” explains General Manager Matthew Collins.
Implementing additional feedback from a design committee, construction began in November 2016 and the dining pavilion opened to members the following July. “The result was a warm, inviting and elegant look and feel that matched the entire property—not just the pool area,”Collins adds.
To better accommodate the membership, the existing pool snack-bar kitchen was expanded to include its own covered seating area. The dining pavilion boasts a full-service bar with seating for 10 and a la carte table service, featuring a mix of both hard and soft seating for 44. A firepit area is directly adjacent to the pavilion area, allowing guests to transition to post-dinner drinks.
While the pavilion’s open-air design does not contain side enclosures, it provides adequate coverage from the elements. “There have been occasional storms with wind blowing the rain in, but the majority of the time, we continue to serve with little interruption from the weather,” notes Collins. The bar features roll-down shutters that allow the club to house supplies whenever the bar is closed.
To further promote ease of operations, the club decided to upgrade its wireless network, so the service staff can use tablets for order-taking. “The kitchen is not attached to the pavilion, so we had concerns of longer ticket times,” Collins expalins. “This allows orders to get to the kitchen quicker.”
With such strides in efficiency, management was initially hesitant about how these improvements would impact overall club dining. “We had initial concerns that this area might cannibalize business from our main clubhouse dining,” Collins admits. But in fact, the opposite was true: Clubhouse dining revenue exceeded its budget, while poolside dining grew by a whopping 317 percent.
And keeping the dining pavilion open seven days a week during pool season has helped boost business when clubhouse dining facilities are closed Sundays and Mondays.
As poolside dining continues to promote strong business for Chattahoochee CC, members of all ages are reaping the rewards of the thriving pavilion. “It’s very casual and family-friendly, but also inviting to our empty-nesters who want to be part of the activity, but don’t want to swim or sunbathe,” says Collins. “It’s the perfect gathering place for all demographics.”
Primed for Celebration
After nearly 40 years in business, The Forest Country Club of Fort Myers, Fla., is getting set to unveil a renovated clubhouse, which includes 3,000 square feet of outdoor dining space. The renovation project kicked off last April and was scheduled to open to members at the end of February 2019.
Positioned alongside the club’s Grille Room, the new space is comprised of a covered terrace and a sun terrace paver deck that includes a casual dining area overlooking one of the club’s two golf courses. “Members will now be able to watch their fellow competitors traverse the 18th hole of the Bear Course while they enjoy their favorite cocktail,” says General Manager Matt Gaudet.
When laying out the new outdoor space, traffic flow was taken into consideration—both with the dining area and surrounding amenities. “Access pathways are delineated by table layout, and the open concept of fewer walls, higher ceilings and no narrow corridors was implemented throughout the design,” Gaudet describes.
The indoor Grille Room flows directly onto the outdoor terraces, adjacent to brand-new bocce courts, creating a seamless transition between dinner and recreation. Within 40 feet of these courts is a 15-seat outdoor tiki bar, which complements 70 seats for dining and high-top seating for 30. An additional soft lounge seating area surrounding the firepits brings the outdoor seating capacity to 130 members and guests.
To maintain a casual atmosphere on the terraces, designers opted for durable fabric seating that is both UV-resistant and waterproof, to withstand the Florida climate. Hurricane-rated, electric roll-down shade screening protects against weather and dust, while fostering prime views of the lush surroundings. “This idyllic setting showcases our beautiful golf courses and the nature preserves that abound on our special piece of property,” says Gaudet.
As the club awaits the opening of its new clubhouse and terraces, management is confident that outdoor dining revenues will earn a significant boost, especially with the improvements arriving in time for the kickoff of The Forest CC’s 40th anniversary in March 2019. “We’re eagerly looking forward to enjoying our new, more contemporary and transitional member spaces,” Gaudet adds.
Embracing the OutdoorsWhen the Chateau Elan Golf Club in Braselton, Ga., underwent a clubhouse renovation last summer, its dining facility not only benefitted from a new look, but a new identity. Re-opening as Sarazen’s Bar & Grille, the restaurant was named for legendary golf pro Gene Sarazen and his influence on Northeast Georgia’s golfing heritage.
In conjunction with this re-branding, the previous design’s glass-enclosed room prompted a need to better showcase the club’s surroundings. “We knew we wanted an outdoor area to make it more inviting, so the patio became a focal point of the renovation,” explains General Manager Tim Yavello, PGA. “Now the space offers the outdoor experience guests are looking for, to enjoy golf course views.”
With its casual, yet cozy layout, the covered patio area is situated just off the grille’s interior and extends Sarazen’s seating capabilities from 56 inside, to an additional 38 outdoors. A medley of two- and four-top cushioned seats and tables, along with a smattering of white rocking chairs and six dark-brown Adirondack chairs and side tables, creates an inviting refuge for members.
Yavello describes the patio as having a “backyard vibe with rocking chairs, a sprawling lawn and firepit, along with views of the 18th hole of the Chateau Course.” Overhead, whirling ceiling fans take the sting out of the summertime air, while heaters provide extra comfort once the colder temperatures set in.
Because the main kitchen is located just insider the grille, servers have easy access to indoor and outdoor diners, as well as the service station about 12 feet from the kitchen. Such ease of operations has translated into better business, with food-and-beverage revenues up 50 percent over the previous year.
Having completed its first summer season since the re-opening, the outdoor patio is expected to be in full swing this year. “The response from the community has been very positive, and Sarazen’s is now the place to go inside of the Chateau Elan community and surrounding neighborhoods,” says Ed Walls, General Manager of the Chateau Elan Winery & Resort.
Clubs that have endured dining-design overhauls are vested in long-term success that stems not just from good cooking, but good service. Managers of facilities that have undertaken recent outdoor-dining renovation projects share these secrets to operating efficiently and effectively:
• Enlist membership input. Ask for feedback and factor it in the design whenever possible. “Our members would like actual silverware and real glassware,” reports Matthew Collins of Chattahoochee Country Club. “We are looking into a small dishwasher in this area, to accommodate silverware and reusable plates.”
• Look at what’s in front of you. Club surroundings offer instant atmosphere and should not be overlooked. “Taking advantage of the best vistas, with enough space to satisfy the volume of members desiring these locations, should all be given consideration,” says Matt Gaudet of The Forest Country Club.
• Remember all reasons for the season. When designing outdoor dining space, don’t forget to factor in its multipurpose value. “Programming [use, operational hours, events, etc.] is equally as important as construction planning, if not more so,” says Brian Darlak of Indian Creek Yacht and Country Club.
• Teach them well. In the midst of a renovation, take time to hire and train new staffers. “Being underprepared will reflect in service standards, and the guests certainly notice,” says Tim Yavello of Chateau Elan Golf Club and Sarazen’s Bar & Grille.