C&RB had the unique opportunity to speak with Richard Mogensen, General Manager of Desert Willow Golf Resort, a nationally ranked Public Golf Resort owned by the City of Palm Desert, California, about their newly expanded F&B operation.
Q: How long have you been at your Desert Willow?
A: I have been with Desert Willow as General Manager for over two years and with KemperSports for three years. I have managed private clubs in Florida and Minnesota and prior to golf was in the Hotel Industry as a General Manager for over 20 years with large convention hotels.
Q: What was F&B like when you first came to Desert Willow?
A: Desert Willow was known as a successful golf resort, and it was nationally ranked in terms of public play. The building was in good condition, but it had been built 12 years ago. When the city built this facility, they never dreamed F&B would be as successful as it has become and the facilities were in need of an update and expansion. The competition has gotten more keen and the market is more sophisticated, so it was time for us to step up.
Q: Describe F&B at your club?
A: Desert Willow has diversified Food & Beverage offerings.
BANQUETS – We have the Firecliff a Ballroom that accomodates 250 guests; we have the Willows Room that seats 100 banquet style; and we have the Palm Desert Room that seats up to 40 guests. The Terraces Complex Seats up to 500 Guests and the Event Lawn can seat up to 200 for Ceremonies and 120 for banquets.
DINING – Lakeview Terrace dining seats up to 250 guests, The Vista Bar seats 40 Guests, The Lobby Bar seats 42 guests, The Cooks Grill seats approximately 80 guests. We also offer on Golf Course Beverage and Food Cart Service, a 9th Hole Food Kiosk on the Mountain View Golf Course.
Q: How has it changed in the past few years?
A: We had a major renovation and expansion of the Food & Beverage facilities from July 2010 to January 2011. We added 5,200 square feet to the resort clubhouse, tripling the size of the kitchen and storage space areas. We now have 12,000 square feet of outdoor terrace space for events. We added 250 parking spaces and now feature approximately 500 spaces for golf and food and beverage patrons. With our renovation our cover count have almost doubled. We serve only breakfast, lunch and special events with a bar menu from 5PM to 7PM.
Q: How do you predict it will change in the next few years?
A: With our latest renovations Desert Willow can now offer many choices for golf tournaments, weddings and other social events, while maintaining space for our daily dining patrons. Strong revenue growth and general business increases are forecasted, particularly as the economy improves.
Q: Prior to the renovation, what were some of the biggest F&B challenges facing your property?
A: The back of the house facilities were greatly inadequate for the number of covers we served. Storage space was non-existent. We had long waiting lines for dining on the Terrace. We had difficulty serving banquets and dining simultaneously out of the very small kitchen.
Q: How did the renovation change that?
A: We designed a new banquet/production kitchen. We doubled our refrigeration and freezer space. We added china, glass and silver storage. We added a larger food and liquor storeroom. We added banquet storage, which was previously on the loading dock. We increased the loading dock, expanded office space for F&B and accounting. We expanded the employee lounge/locker room and built a new banquet entrance and lobby.
Q: What prompted the renovation?
A: The Management of Desert Willow recommended the needed changes to the ownership in 2009 (The City of Palm Desert) and presented the operational issues and the potential revenue growth. A plan ws designed and approved by the City Council.
Q: What elements were most important to include in the renovation?
A: Expanded outdoor Dining/Bar to take advantage of the vistas and expanded kitchen and storage space.
Q: What was the renovation process like for you and your members?
A: We closed 85% of our F&B facilities for 6 months. We tried to do the work mostly in the off season to have minimal impact on our guests.
Q: How long did it take, from planning to opening?
A: From Concept to completion about 18 months.
Q: How much did it cost?
A: All facets of the project cost $4,800,000
Q: What challenges did you encounter in the renovation process?
A: The normal construction issues: delays, re-design, existing condition issues, code issues, budget issues, contractor issues.
Q: What would you do differently if you had to do it all over again?
A: Always a tough question. Some design elements would maybe change, some spaces would be modified more, different lighting in some areas, different traffic considerations, and maybe more storage space.
Q: How has this renovation changed the culture of Desert Willow?
A: We are now a world class facility with great flexible space and resourses to handle multiple events simultaneously. The Food and Beverage expansion actually adds to the golf business mix and experience and makes Desert Willow Golf Resort a more attractive and professional venue for tournaments and business in general.
Q: Now that F&B is back up in full swing, what have been the results of the renovation?
A: Cover counts for dining have doubled year over year in the first 6 weeks, banquet inquiries have increase 25%, and the market is talking abourt Desert Willow as the destination to go to for not only golf but now for great Food & Beverage.