With member dining in full swing, chefs are putting their renovated cook spaces to good use.
The sound of glasses clinking, forks scraping plates clean and the chatter of happy diners is music to any clubhouse manager’s ears. As they works their way through the dining room and push open the swinging doors into the kitchen, they enter the very space where the magic happens.
As clubs continue to welcome back members and on-site dining resumes with a vigor that outpaces pre-pandemic covers, kitchens must be able to keep up with higher volumes and increased reservations. Redesigned facilities that have finetuned their layouts for enhanced productivity enable chefs to do their best work—and create meals that will have members coming back for seconds.
More In Store
In need of a more streamlined design that promises better output, the Philadelphia (Pa.) Cricket Club recently began a multiphase renovation to update its kitchen and dining facilities. The process began in 2019 when the club’s long-range planning committee took a closer look at the need for continuity between operations.
“The dining rooms were separated … and the kitchen was not designed [for] consistency and volume,” says Executive Chef Ben Burger.
The first part of the renovation called for an updated banquet kitchen, which would enable the club to continue servicing weddings and other member events, while providing prep for other outlets. The renovated space opened this past May, with an expanded a la carte kitchen to be completed later this year.
While the banquet kitchen’s footprint has remained intact, the rejiggered layout reflects better organization, a relocated dish area, additional equipment and updated storage facilities, including a keg/beverage cooler.
“It keeps all storage on one level and allows [in the future] to run keg lines to the bar, so that staff does not have to run kegs through member areas,” notes Burger. A dedicated prep cooler is used exclusively for events, reserving the kitchen’s secondary cooler for raw goods.
In the banquet kitchen’s prep space, two Alto-Shaam combi ovens provide greater efficiency for cooking and banquet production. A repositioned dish area, now front and center, enables faster breakdowns. Burger cites greater workflow, completely reducing crossover between prep, cooking and storage areas. Updated electric, drainage and HVAC also enhance the design, while new epoxy flooring with grit ensures a non-slip surface.
During the renovation, the project had its fair share of challenges. Obtaining the correct dimensions for the new coolers required the removal of existing ones and the floors to be leveled. In addition, the new design needed tweaking after learning that one of the hoods was not up to code for the necessary equipment. “We ended up removing the hood and putting in ovens with built-in hoods and electric,” notes Burger.
Despite these minor hiccups, the banquet kitchen’s redesign has already proven beneficial. “It supports the prep for all our outlets: pool, squash and paddle,” he says. “The increased cooler space and reorganization of prep allows for better workflow for all areas.”
Refreshed and ReadyAt the Baltimore (Md.) Country Club, a recent renovation resulted in an enhanced kitchen that can better handle banquet and a la carte service. According to Executive Chef Richard A. Jallet, this entailed new refrigeration, air conditioning and more efficient equipment. The year-long project was completed this past September, much to the delight of staff and members alike.
While the upgraded kitchen entailed a modest boost in size, the benefits are proving to be immeasurable. Increasing the total square footage by 460 sq. ft.—to a new total of 2,560 sq. ft.—allowed builders to remove an indoor walk-in box, install an exterior box and extend two interior walls.
“The increased space allowed the addition of a glass washer near the dishwashing station, more glassware storage, and expanded service area and another hood for more cooking equipment,” explains Jallet.
Banquet operations received a boost with the construction of heated wells and heated lamps, along with a new combi oven. A steam kettle is able to cook soups and stews in place of a large stovetop pot, while an extra walk-in now has a dedicated cooler for dairy/meat and seafood/produce. A blast chiller and spherical ice ball, along with a tilt skillet and new hoods, round out the improvements made to the workspace.
When the kitchen was being renovated, the team ran into a few snags along the way. “The hood controls are all electronic and sophisticated, so there were some issues operating them when we first opened,” recalls Jallet. Shipping delays hindered the arrival of replacement parts, which were necessary when some of the equipment was damaged. In fact, some equipment, including one of the ice machines—ordered nearly one year ago—still has not arrived.
Nevertheless, the club’s kitchen continues to churn out meals for multiple dining venues, all of which rely on one main menu that rotates every five weeks. Seasonal menu items, along with refreshed staples, continue to roll out with ease, thanks to this redesigned space.
“The impact [on revenues] is significant, with an immediate increase over 50 percent in cover counts,” says Jallet.
Separate and Productive
Banquet and a la carte service now have their own respective spaces in the kitchen at The Glencoe Golf & Country Club. The Calgary, Canada facility underwent a transformation last year, replacing an outdated kitchen that hadn’t been upgraded since the early 1980s. “Infrastructure was aged and fully depreciated, and space wasn’t functioning properly from a flow standpoint,” says General Manager Ash Chadha.
While the 3,000-sq.-ft. kitchen’s footprint remained intact, the layout was reorganized for greater efficiency and better output.
To create a more cohesive design, a bevy of kitchen equipment updates aims to streamline the floor plan. Centralized coolers, freezers and dry storage space house necessary ingredients at the ready, while prepared items can be easily stored. A separate banquet and bulk production line provide a prep area for daily operations, as well as an exclusive area for handling large events that will not disrupt a la carte production. Also benefitting food service for larger affairs is a banquet serving table, featuring heating wells and heat lamps that streamline plate service.
Two new Rational iCombi Pro ovens allow proteins and vegetables to be cooked simultaneously, while a new pasta cooker enables bulk blanching and frees up oven range burners. Chadha also points out that the addition of three energy-efficient Rational ovens “provide our kitchen team with multiple cooking technique options without sacrificing quality or time.” To ensure a smooth receival of goods, the kitchen’s central pantry area is now positioned closer to the delivery door for easier access. Tile flooring was swapped out in favor of a slip-resistant version, and new floor drains, along with all-new electrical, completed the redesign.
As a result of Glencoe’s kitchen overhaul, operations have improved dramatically. Food production and prep times are more efficient, and service flow—from kitchen to table—is unencumbered. And with more open areas that foster greater communication between kitchen staff, as well as front and back of house, employee morale has experienced a boost that has translated to stronger profit margins. According to Chadha, F&B revenues have increased 25 percent since the renovation and have also been propelled by a clubhouse renovation and a post-COVID surge in business.
“The brightly lit, new kitchen is designed to improve efficiencies, organization, flow and infrastructure … providing an enhanced dining experience for our restaurant and event guests,” he says.
Cranking out plated meals and banquets in a modest-sized kitchen is no easy feat, but at some point, working in a kitchen that is tight on space requires larger accommodations. Such was the case for Great Hills Country Club in Austin, Texas, where a shift in club culture warranted a new kitchen.
“Over the years, the club has transitioned into a more family-welcoming atmosphere, where families can gather for events and a sense of community,” explains General Manager/COO Gaith Alkadi. Last June, Great Hills underwent a clubhouse-wide renovation that included a much larger kitchen, additional equipment, and the ability to handle all a la carte, special events and member banquets.
Expanding to 3,800 sq. ft.—nine times the previous footprint—the new kitchen is better equipped to manage prep, cooking and plating for all meals.
“Most of our members’ home kitchens were larger than the kitchen in our previous clubhouse,” notes Alkadi. “But it was amazing to see the type of culinary dishes they could still create out there.” He points out the myriad advantages of the renovated space, including the opportunity for the staff to be more creative, have ample room to work and designate areas for specific products.
In the previous design, kitchen equipment was somewhat limited; hot line items included one oven, a flat griddle, two fryers and a grill, while the cold side consisted of a small meat slicer, refrigerator, and cutting/prep area. With the larger layout, chefs have access to significantly more tools: a grill and a flat-top grill, two double fryers, two double ovens, a steamer, chip warmer, larger ice makers and a commercial-sized mixer and grater. Multiple soda stations make beverage service a breeze, while multiple dishwashing stations simplify cleanup. Storage is greatly enhanced by standing and lowboy coolers, walk-in coolers (including one designated for beer), walk-in-freezer and a large dry storage area. Another “cool” perk: a prep area with its own refrigerator and freezer unit.
To ensure that the new layout could withstand the influx of numerous equipment installations, the kitchen was updated with new electric GFI outlets, high amps and separate breakers. Additional dishwashing stations also warranted extra drains for easy floor cleaning. Perhaps one of the more noteworthy behind-the-scenes improvements is the construction of an RTI grease trap, which automatically pumps in fresh fryer oil and disposes used fryer grease. Alkadi credits this tool for its ability to “keep up with a consistent flavor for our members’ favorite dishes and lower the risk of employees being injured.”
Now, with dedicated areas for prepping, cooking and plating, Grey Hills’ chefs can better service the club’s two dining rooms, banquet room and four meeting rooms. Being able to move around freely, store items properly and cook the way they were meant to enables the staff to work efficiently and effectively.
“We take great pride in hosting many of our members’ special events, including birthday parties, celebrations, family gatherings, work conferences and so much more, all while continuing to offer a la carte dining to the membership,” says Alkadi.
Summing It Up
> Kitchens can improve their efficiency with reorganized layouts, which translates to higher F&B revenues.
> Making room for additional equipment allows clubs to tailor their designs for handling a la carte and banquet services.
> Upgrading electrical ensures that all new additions operate smoothly.