There’s no disputing that staffing issues need to be taken more seriously than ever in the club industry. But the time has also never been better to promote the advantages of working in clubs.
In the wake of how the pandemic has affected working conditions, pay (or non-pay), availablity of applicants, and existing employee’s attitudes and mental health, there’s no disputing that staffing issues need to be taken more seriously than ever in the club industry.
Within the Club + Resort Chef section of C+RB‘s July issue, Scott Craig, Executive Chef of Myers Park Country Club in Charlotte, N.C., doesn’t pull any punches in outlining just how critical the situation has become. And he also prescribes some corrective steps that everyone in any part of the industry should take note of and act to implement immediately, if an honest assessment shows that their clubs are falling short in the areas of competitive wages, employee assistance, community involvement and continuing education.
But I’d like to add one more thought to Chef Craig’s list: The time has also never been better to promote the advantages of working in clubs, vs. other hospitality segments in particular and other options in general.
I recently interviewed Joe Mendez, CCM, CCE, General Manager of Riverton Country Club in Cinnaminson, N.J., for a segment of our “The Road Ahead” video series. For many years in his career, Joe has been an Adjunct Professor in the School of Hospitality Management at Widener University, teaching a Club Management course, and he still often serves as a visiting professor or guest lecturer for similar programs.
After our interview covered what Riverton has done recently to elevate its culinary program through the hiring of a new Executive Chef, and the details of a new master-plan project that his club has in the works, I asked Joe if his experience as an instructor had helped him gain a better understanding of the new generation of emerging managers and how to work with them effectively.
“I think so,” he replied. “What I found at the end of the day is that we’re all the same, so you just have to find what motivates people and tap into that. The newest generation has proved they have a lot to bring to the table that I wouldn’t think of myself—so I see my job as getting out of the way to let them be creative, and steering, guiding, supporting and coaching them, vs. directing them.”
I then asked Joe if he thought that there might be better opportunities now to attract talent to the club industry, because of how clubs have fared more successfully during the pandemic.
“Absolutely—I’ve seen it already,” he replied. “The club industry was fortunate to be able to take on a lot of interns after organizations like Disney and Marriott had no choice but to terminate their intern programs, while at the same time clubs saw golf go through the roof and dining and takeout hold its own.
“That gave us a chance to show future leaders how the club industry can be a more stable segment of hospitality,” Mendez added. “And I think the conversation is really growing in schools and other circles that ‘Maybe this club industry thing is something we ought to be looking at and working towards a little harder.’“
Finally, I asked Joe Mendez about Michael Kim, the new Executive Chef that Riverton just hired, and whether the club industry had proved to have special appeal in attracting him, after a very accomplished career working in high-end restaurants in the gaming industry.
“I think it did,” Joe replied. “Being in more of a corporate world, he’d been carrying a clipboard and had lost sight of his passion for providing great food. [Coming to Riverton] was an opportunity to scale down but not get too small, and to get back in the kitchen and be creative and hands-on with his team.
“And again there was the stability factor,” he added. “He’d moved eight times in 10 years, opening up and fixing various restaurants. The opportunity to settle in was very important to him.”
And it’s an opportunity we should make sure that many others like Chef Kim know about, too.
Joe Barks, Editor