Making room for improvement in club kitchens translates to greater productivity and expanded dining options.
As any good chef knows, creating a memorable dining experience begins in the kitchen. But when cramped quarters limit productivity and good taste becomes compromised, failing to execute food preparation in a timely fashion can leave a bad taste in even the most seasoned chef’s mouth.
By revamping kitchen facilities and providing the tools and space required to cook effectively, clubs can transform the back of the house into a well-run operation that is a recipe for success.
|SUMMING IT UP
• Restructuring a kitchen and ensuring that a la carte and banquet services are not competing for space improves productivity.
• Updating behind-the-scenes electrical work and plumbing ensures proper safety precautions.
• With ample space for food prep, chefs have more opportunities to broaden their menus.
A Revamped Menu
Trying to be all things to all people is a tall order, especially when it involves running a kitchen that is handling restaurant meals and banquet affairs. At the Atlantic City (N.J.) Country Club, new ownership sought to streamline the club’s food preparation by expanding the existing kitchen.
“Rather than producing our a la carte menu and wedding/banquet functions out of the same space, we now have a dedicated room for each,” explains Executive Chef Edward K. Daggers.
The new a la carte kitchen, which took approximately 12 weeks to renovate and officially re-opened in mid-March, nearly quadrupled in size to a 400-sq. ft. space, plus a walk-in cooler.
“We built the kitchen around three key pieces of equipment: a wood-stone pizza oven [where paella is also cooked]; a wood-stove vertical rotisserie for whole chickens, turkey breast, roast beef and prime rib; and a combination wood-and-gas grill for burgers, steaks and fresh fish,” says Daggers.
The previously outdated luncheon kitchen was also updated with a ten-burner range, double fryer and new hood for better ventilation. New tile walls, quarry tile gray flooring, floor drains and a dedicated breaker panel for kitchen electric rounded out the new space.
The new kitchen has not only freed up Atlantic City CC’s main kitchen for banquets only, it has allowed the club to broaden its menu.
“Previously, we had limited hours of operation during the offseason for a la carte,” explains Daggers. “We are now open to the general public for lunch and dinner 364 days a year, so it was important for us to update our offerings to include more varied and healthier selections.” As a result, the club is now able to offer more fresh grilled fish and vegetables, as well as a more varied, bistro-style menu. An open design features a large window inside the kitchen, through which guests can see their food as it is prepared.
Thanks to this restructuring, service times and productivity are much improved, as the club’s a la carte and banquet operations no longer compete for the same space and equipment. The redesign goes hand in hand with Atlantic City CC’s recently renovated banquet dining space and newly covered patio and sky deck for outdoor functions.
“We are well on our way to increasing our banquet business by 150% over last year,” enthuses Daggers.
The Southern way of life may evoke a slower pace, but for Champions Retreat in Evans, Ga., keeping up with customer demand for more banquets called for a kitchen that could turn out catered affairs at top speed. The club’s new 3,000-sq. ft. kitchen, part of a 10,000-sq. ft. event venue dubbed The Barn, was created specifically for this purpose.
“We recognized the need to have a higher-end private function space,” explains Food and Beverage Director Doug Snyder. “We have million-dollar views and the ability to provide [events] like nothing else in this area.”
Up until this point, all a la carte and banquet meals had been handled out of the club’s The Grille House. With more corporate events being added to the books, the need for a separate, more spacious facility became obvious. This past April, the kitchen at The Barn opened its doors, just in time to take on Champions Retreat’s annual charity event preceding the Masters.
“Anything that is not a la carte can now be facilitated out of the new Barn kitchen,” says Snyder.
Described as a full banquet line set up hotel-style, the kitchen is outfitted with essential equipment within designated work zones, including a hot line, cold line, bakery area and food prep station. Featured components include two double-stack convection ovens, a tilt skillet, infrared over-fire broilers, a steak broiler and a slow cooker.
The custom-designed kitchen also boasts a dish pit apart from the hot food area, along with a fire suppression system, grease trap and high-speed Internet service. An accessible power outlet and easy-on/off gas line ensure that proper safety precautions are in place. An ice machine, raised four feet above ground, dumps ice into a hopper that can be rolled out into the bar.
“Much of the equipment is on casters, so it can be reconfigured when needed,” explains Snyder. “[These pieces] are easy to roll out, allowing for a lot of maneuverability.”
With such flexibility in its design, the kitchen at The Barn allows for a seamless integration with the dining rooms. “The kitchen is now large enough without everyone working on top of each other,” notes Sous Chef Christopher Roy. “It’s spacious enough that cooks can do what they need to do, and servers can fit in as well.”
The ample space does more than just enhance productivity—it also helps cooks tap their creative juices. “The Champions Retreat experience is all about Southern hospitality, so we like to pay homage to locally sourced meat, seafood and produce,” says Snyder. The club works with the Fatback Pig Project, a group of local pig farmers that make sausage together.
“The Barn’s glass doors open up, where we have a fire pit for our barbecues. It makes the outdoors come alive,” Snyder adds.
While The Barn’s kitchen is not exclusively independent of The Grille House—staff and workload are shared between the two—the additional manpower puts the club in a position to host larger events than ever before.
“The kitchen was built with execution in mind,” notes Snyder. “It has the ability to host events for up to 2,000 guests. We’re not at that point just yet, but the future is not too far off.”
When Independence Golf Club in Midlothian, Va., decided to add a pizza kitchen to its food-and-beverage facilities in spring 2014, it represented an entirely new direction in club dining. “We really wanted to push away from the ‘club’ or ‘sports bar’ concept and try to develop a new and fresh tavern concept,” explains Giff Breed, President of Pros, Inc., which manages the property. “The best way to do that was brick-oven pizza.”
Adjacent to the club’s ballroom and across the hall from the kitchen, the 20 x 20 pizza kitchen was part of a renovation that included an updated kitchen and new bathrooms. While Breed would have preferred that the pizza kitchen was strategically positioned within the main kitchen itself, that was not possible.
“We were renovating our current kitchen to be able to handle the other tavern-menu items,” he notes. “We would have needed to carry one extra person, had the two kitchens been combined.”
Regardless of placement, the pizza kitchen has made it possible for Independence GC to offer cuisine that’s a departure from traditional club fare. “Having a complete brick-oven pizza menu available is not commonly found at a golf course,” says Breed. The pizza selection has been so well-received, in fact, that the club now provides delivery to surrounding neighborhoods.
Helping to broaden the club’s menu, the pizza kitchen is also being used to make flatbread pizzas and oven-baked vegetables. But perhaps the greatest testament to its success was a special request received recently from a particularly discriminating type of customer.
“We had a bride who wanted all of her guests to leave with a pizza of their choice,” Breed reports.
From the Ground Up
As the saying goes, too many cooks can spoil the broth—and too much congestion in the kitchen can wreak havoc on moving meals from prep to plate. At Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y., creating an undisturbed workflow was one of the main reasons for renovating the existing kitchen.
“The wait staff was walking through the hot and cold lines, and we wanted to isolate them into one area, so they would not be walking through the cooks,” explains Executive Chef Rhy Waddington.
To achieve this goal and enhance the overall design, a complete gut of Winged Foot’s two-story kitchen began last December and was completed in April. While the existing footprint remained intact (3,100 sq. ft. upstairs and 2,500 sq. ft. downstairs), the basement portion was enhanced with an internal lift, which has made a vast improvement on the kitchen’s workflow.
“We recently had a delivery of 500 lobsters and in the past, we would have had to use an external lift and carry them up on foot,” Waddington notes. The new lift also minimizes the risk of back injuries, he adds.
The basement also houses dry goods, a walk-in freezer, walk-in wine cellar and all banquet equipment used for prep and plating, proving its versatility. Drainage has been updated, swapping out the original terra-cotta pipes with updated plumbing, Waddington says.
Upstairs, the traditional club-style kitchen with hot and cold stations was converted to a custom-suite banquet with a pick-up area for a la carte. The top-to-bottom overhaul includes all new equipment, all the way down to the flooring, which features a quarry style that was refurbished with an epoxy finish. Also of note is the repositioned dishwashing area, which was moved from the front to an out-of-the-way location in the back of the kitchen.
The changes did require re-training of the kitchen staff, posing the biggest challenge of the renovation, according to Waddington. But considering that the club’s menu changes weekly, figuring out the new logistics and workflow makes everyone’s job a lot easier.
“A changing menu means a different set of tasks every week, but that lets us use multiple work stations for different prep,” Waddington notes. With a bustling dining room and a terrace that fills to its 250-person capacity in the summer, Winged Foot’s new kitchen is ready to put its staff’s multitasking abilities to the full test.