The Bluffton, S.C. club offers its members a monthly culinary event centered around a destination or unique geographic attraction. The popularity of the reservation-only evenings has resulted in consistent sellouts over the past year. Also, the sale of club-logoed cups with unlimited refills at Champions Run in Omaha, Neb. has significantly reduced plastic use at its pool.
(As featured in C+RB’s 14th Annual Ideas Issue, June 2020.)
Once a month, the Colleton River Club in Bluffton, S.C., immerses its members in a unique dining experience through its “Passport Nights” program, where a la carte dining is paused and its place is taken by a deeply themed event centered around a destination or unique geographic attraction.
“We pick themes that suit locations our members have thoroughly enjoyed visiting in the past,” says Executive Chef Robert Wysong. “Last year we did locations like the Caribbean and Southeast Asia. Other themes are fit into current events, such as Oktoberfest and Mardi Gras.”
Every event has an array of special touches to make each “trip” feel unique and special, says Wysong. “We look at all details, including music, entertainment, staff uniforms, and food,” he says. “The dinners are presented in an interactive setting, with chef-attended action stations, too.”
Passport Nights, typically held on Saturdays, are by reservation only, as their popularity has caused consistent sellouts over the past year.
And the “passport” aspect is not just an overriding theme—members are given an actual booklet that gets stamped each time they attend a Passport Night. After accruing eight stamps, members are entered into a drawing for two complimentary tickets to the club’s annual New Year’s Eve bash.
“Members here thrive on the variety created by our inventive food-and-beverage team,” says Wysong. “As it evolves, I think we can go deeper into regional cooking. There are a lot of possibilities, the deeper you venture into Asian and European cuisines.”
Going forward, Passport Nights will be the centerpiece of Colleton River’s weekend dining plan, as the club ramps back up from the coronavirus disruption.
“As we restart our process and develop new ones, we will look at weekend dining options for members differently across the board,” Wysong says. “This is our chance to continue breaking the routine and generate more excitement.”
The Goal: Colleton River Club wanted to engage members in the a la carte dining experience and drive participation.
The Plan: The “Passport Nights” program, held once a month typically on Saturdays, transforms a la carte dining into a themed destination with décor and specialty menus. Members are issued special booklets that are stamped when they arrive for each new event; accruing eight stamps qualifies them for a drawing for tickets to the club’s annual New Year’s Eve bash.
The Payoff: Colleton River members are so thrilled by the event that participation increased on Passport Nights by 58% and they are consistently sold out.
Is selling special club-logoed cups at a price of $125 for kids and $85 for adults a sustainable proposition? It certainly proved to be one at Champions Run in Omaha, Neb., where the club promoted the purchase of the insulated cups, which came with a straw, to reduce plastic use at its pool. Those who bought the cup were entitled to free refills for soda, iced tea and other non-alcoholic beverages all summer long (and discounted specialty drinks on the weekend for those with adult cups).
“The cups were very popular among members—we sold out of the original order of 100 and had to make multiple reorders during the summer due to high demand,” reports the club’s Allison Boyd. “We strive to be very conscientious with our waste, and these cups have helped immensely with that.”