To facilitate a relaxed and productive exchange of ideas, Town and Country Club offers an off-site employee field trip with General Manager Vincent Tracy.
An invitation to have breakfast with their boss, especially if it’s on a Saturday morning when they might otherwise be off, might not strike a lot of young workers as a particularly appealing part of their jobs.
But at the Town and Country Club (T&CC) in Saint Paul, Minn., there’s nothing forced or tedious about the experience—instead, it’s more of an enjoyable off-site field trip that also provides the chance for relaxed exchanges with their General Manager. And the benefits and takeaways for employees who participate go well beyond just having an opportunity to bring up work-related issues with the top person in charge.
|The Goal: Have staff members participate in farmers market purchasing trips to learn more about Town and Country Club’s increasing emphasis on locally sourced products, and at the same time provide the opportunity to meet with the club’s General Manager in a relaxed and unintimidating setting.
The Plan: Invite employees to “Breakfast with the GM” sessions held regularly at the market, during which General Manager Vincent Tracy helps them learn about food sourcing and sustainability while also encouraging a two-way dialogue on both personal and work-related issues.
As T&CC has increased its emphasis on locally sourced and organic foods in its culinary offerings, it has begun to grow more of its own produce on its historic property along the banks of the Mississippi River, which the club has occupied since 1890. At the same time, T&CC has supplemented more of its growing need for fresh products through purchases made from local farmers markets that have become increasingly popular in the Twin Cities region.
Noting how he and other members of the culinary team were making more frequent visits to farmers markets as part of the club’s purchasing routine, T&CC’s General Manager, Vincent Tracy, CCM, CCE, recognized an opportunity to expand that task to include more of the club’s staff members. At the same time, Tracy saw that the experience could have educational and training value during which he could also get to know staff members better and on a more personal level in a low-key and unintimidating setting.
So Tracy began to extend invitations to all staff members, including part-time servers, to join him for periodic Saturday-morning shopping excursions to the market. In addition to having breakfast with Tracy as part of the trip, the staff members are also given shopping lists with items and ingredients needed by the T&CC culinary team that is headed by Executive Chef John Kain.
“Sustainability is an important cause in our community, and we expect our staff to be educated on the process and share their knowledge with members,” Tracy says in explaining the primary intention of the farmers market outings. “We decided that having staff members join us when we shop at the farmers market would provide a fun and interesting way to educate them on our food sources, and also encourage their involvement and support of our local sourcing for produce and other foods.”
In addition to shopping for the club’s needs and taking time to have an informal breakfast with Tracy during which they can enjoy some of the market’s fresh and distinctive foods, staff members who go on the excursions purchase fresh flowers from the market for use throughout the club. They can also use the time to pick up things for their own needs at home, as part of being encouraged to live a healthier personal lifestyle that supports the local economy.
“Our ‘Farmers Market with the GM’ mornings have been well-attended and have proved to provide a fun, educational experience for employees,” says Tracy, who notes that spending time with staff in a pleasant, off-site setting has also led to more engaged and fruitful, two-way dialogue that has generated useful feedback and productive ideas for the club’s overall operation.
And the benefits of the farmers-market trips are retained long after the meal is over, the shopping is done and everyone goes their separate ways, he adds. “The staff who have participated in these outings return to the club with a smile, a full belly and a better understanding of local food sourcing,” Tracy says.
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