While demonstrating sustainability to members and guests, the management team at IMG Academy Golf Club has learned that eco-friendly food packaging has surprising versatility and value, too.
IMG Academy Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla., has strong connections to innovative instructional approaches. IMG Academy itself traces its roots to the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, which was founded in 1978 as a groundbreaking boarding school for the development of elite junior players.
IMG (founded by Mark McCormack, an attorney who represented and negotiated endorsement deals for Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player) bought the Bollettieri school in 1987, to be part of its expanding sports and entertainment portfolio. IMG then set out to apply the Bollettieri concept to provide co-educational, college preparatory instruction for emerging young talent in a wider variety of sports—with golf, not surprisingly, at the top of the list.
In 1993, IMG launched its golf program as the second of eight sports now offered at the boarding school. Programs for individual development of amateur and professional athletes of all ages were also created, and today, IMG Academy’s boarding school and camp programs attract thousands of athletes from dozens of countries.
To accommodate its many sports and students, the Academy also needed to expand its physical size, and over the years it has more than doubled its property through the acquisition of adjacent land (the campus is now spread over more than 500 acres).
For golf, the home course is an 18-hole championship layout that dates back to 1972 and was operated by El Conquistador Country Club before IMG acquired it, invested in a $2.5 million renovation, and reopened it in 2003 as the IMG Academy Golf Club.
Multiple Touch Points
In addition to its use by the Academy’s students and instructional-camp participants, IMG Academy GC has a private-membership component, with a total of 265 full and seasonal members, and is also open for outside play and tournaments. That keeps its management team, led by General Manager Jeffrey Parsons, busy for much of the year with a wide range of both regular and special events.
“There are always a lot of moving parts, with students, parents, members, guests and groups here from all over the world,” says Parsons, who has been with the club since 2009.
In addition to the pace (43,000 annual golf rounds) and breadth of activity generated by the full scope of the club’s operations, there are also physical challenges, especially where food-and-beverage service is involved. The club’s staff must frequently handle catered events held on the school campus or other locations beyond the club’s boundaries.
All of these factors, combined with an ongoing desire to stay at the forefront of service and operating innovations, came together to pique Parsons’ interest when he read, in Club & Resort Business, about Interlachen Country Club’s experience with eco-friendly packaging for grab-and-go food and drinks (“The Whole Package,” C&RB, January 2015).
“It looked like a great way to provide a better-looking product for all of the to-go and catered box lunches and other food and drink we are always preparing, both here at the club and elsewhere on the IMG campus,” Parsons said. “I also liked the message it could help us send to our members, guests and students about doing our part to preserve the environment and promote sustainability.”Parsons contacted Planglow USA, the Minnesota-based provider of compostable packaging and labels for grab-and-go foodservice, and arranged to learn more about similar products that could be supplied to fit IMG Academy GC’s needs. For their initial go-round, Parsons reports that he, along with Assistant Clubhouse Manager Mark Metzler and Executive Chef Cesare Caldarelli, decided to first “dip their toes” into the eco-friendly waters by confining themselves to basic packaging for sandwiches, soups, salads and multi-item snack boxes.
But given the club’s level and range of activity—which Parsons says was more spirited than ever as this year’s season got into full swing—that initial test proved to be more than ample in convincing the IMG Academy GC team that they had headed down a productive new path.
“The packaging presents itself very well and travels well, and the labeling has a nice look, too,” says Metzler. “It was very easy to use for our pre-made items, even when we had to make as many as 500 snack boxes for some events.”
The club has been pleased enough with the experience, Metzler says, that it will now look to have the packaging help it expand into a takeout service it plans to implement, which will include home delivery for members who live nearby. And that will only add more exposure, Parsons notes, to the broader benefit that ties into how he and his team continually strive to enhance the parent organization’s brand.
“[The packaging] is a good representation of how you can expect something better at IMG,” Parsons says. “It has the right look and feel, and conveys the right messages for what we stand for.”