Mizner CC’s $22 million renovation and expansion will add a number of new dining options and, according to GM/COO Larry Savvides, will be the key to the South Florida club’s success.
In South Florida, the club business is fierce, and food-and-beverage programs are among the biggest differentiators between top properties.
Mizner Country Club (Delray Beach, Fla.) is teed up to pull ahead of the pack, as it nears the completion of a $22 million Lifestyle Center renovation and expansion project that will add casual, indoor and outdoor poolside dining, a bar, and a grab-and-go café.
“This renovation will elevate our entire operation,” says Larry S. Savvides, Mizner’s General Manager and Chief Operating Officer. “It encompasses indoor and outdoor dining spaces, and it will set the stage for the fantastic food prepared by our new Executive Chef, Orlin McLendon.”
Overall, Savvides believes, F&B and quality service will dictate the club’s future success.
C2C: Tell us about the F&B operation at Mizner CC.
LS: We have two restaurants and we generate about $3 million annually. We have a little more than 1,100 members.
Two years ago, we renovated one of our restaurants—the One Mile Bar and Grille—to be more modern and casual. It has about 60 seats and has been members’ favorite place to dine at the club. The other restaurant, our main dining room, is more formal. It’s where we host catered events as well.
C2C: What dining options will be part of the new Lifestyle Center?
LS: We will add two new restaurants. One will be a casual poolside space with indoor and outdoor seating, as well as a bar and covered lounge. The other will be a grab-and-go café, with fresh-made sandwiches, salads, smoothies and specialty coffee. That location will also serve as a dessert destination, with ice cream and gelato in the evenings.
C2C: How will the renovation and expansion impact the other F&B outlets at Mizner?
LS: The menu at the One Mile Bar and Grille will shift to offer more small plates in the bar area and a steakhouse theme in the dining room. The goal is to keep members on campus as long as possible. With all these different outlets and activities, we’ll be better able to give them everything they need.
C2C: How will you structure staffing for these new outlets?
LS: We currently have one Executive Chef, Orlin McLendon. Under him there are two sous chefs. We will hire a chef de cuisine who will oversee the new outlets, because they aren’t connected to the main kitchen.
C2C: What has been Chef McLendon’s role in the expansion?
LS: He designed the kitchen and selected the equipment. He has also helped to design the restaurant so it meets the needs of his menu plans and his style of cooking.
C2C: What is his style?
LS: He’s very eclectic. He’s always trying to find the best way to prepare and present everything he serves—even french fries. He’s a perfectionist in the best way possible.
C2C: What brought Chef to Mizner CC?
LS: His story is actually pretty interesting. Last year, we were in the process of searching for a new chef when our Clubhouse Manager, Daniel Salgato, suggested we bring in [McLendon] as an interim. His impact was instant. The members loved him. After a year, and an attempt to hire another Executive Chef who was not the right fit for Mizner, he agreed to take the position.
C2C: Why wasn’t he hired right away?
LS: Before Mizner, [McLendon] had been a private chef for some big-name businesses and celebrities like Celine Dion, for example. He enjoyed travelling and I don’t think at that time he was ready to stay in one place.
C2C: What changed?
LS: He quickly came to appreciate this club, as well as spending more time with his daughter. He enjoyed the variety he could do here and he really connected with the membership.
C2C: What do you appreciate most about Chef McLendon?
LS: He exudes positive energy and he’s a motivator. He has intense passion, too. He’s constantly studying trends and techniques and looking for ways to offer our membership a better dining experience. He’s deeply entrenched in the success of himself and of his team.
He’s also a very talented culinarian. He is delivering food and service at a level I’ve never seen before in my career—and I’ve been in the club business since I was 15. (My dad was a GM.)
C2C: How does Chef motivate his team?
LS: He leads by example. He actually cooks with them on the line, side-by-side. He creates new dishes and he welcomes their input. He makes himself accessible and is constantly coaching. He’s helping out every chance he gets, whether that’s prep, during service or at close.
C2C: How do you support him?
LS: My responsibility is provide him—and all of my managers—with the tools and resources they need to be successful and to deliver a great membership experience. I’m a composed leader. I don’t get very excited or worked up about anything. My job is to make my managers look good and to help them handle member challenges. If Chef is successful, then the club is successful.
C2C: What is your relationship like with Chef McClendon?
LS: We share the same passion for food, fine dining and great restaurants. I actually started in the kitchen decades ago, so I have a good understanding of garde manger, grill, sauté and short-order. Because of that, we’re able to communicate well. We speak the same language. I sincerely respect [McLendon] and I’m grateful that he’s a part of our team.
C2C: What impact has he had on F&B over the past year?
LS: Quality and consistency has improved immeasurably. Chef is also connecting with our membership in a way no chef has before. He touches tables to talk with members and find out what they want. He likes to interact with them and he welcomes their input. His goal is to create dishes and menus that far exceed their expectations.
C2C: Is that what will drive F&B success at Mizner?
LS: That’s part of it. The renovation will be a big part, too.
Our goal is to provide what I call a “mindless service experience.” We must anticipate our members’ needs. We must be proactive, not reactive. We should know our members so well that when Mr. Jones sits down for lunch, we know he wants ballpark mustard with his burger.
C2C: So service is equally important.
LS: Service and food go hand-in-hand. We are pushing to personalize service at every single touchpoint—whether that’s the bartender knowing your favorite drink or the chef coming out to make sure your meal was delicious. We address members by name and we form relationships with them. We are in the business of building relationships.
C2C: There’s one more big perk coming online for the staff at Mizner, right?
LS: Yes! As part of this expansion project, we’re adding a 5,000-sq. ft. kitchen and employee cafeteria. There will be a daily buffet with beverages and a locker room, too.