For Myers Park CC and Doylestown CC, the snack bar is evolving into an all-day dining destination.
Snack bars are shedding their reputations as no-frills food counters that only dish up hot dogs, packaged snacks and candy bars. Many of these outposts are now being transformed into bona fide casual-dining destinations with unique identities—not to mention really good food.
Of course, members can still get hot dogs, packaged snacks and candy bars at the turn stand and by the pool. But they can also get prepackaged salads, sandwiches and sushi, all made in-house. Or, if they’re pining for something hot, they can opt for lamb tacos or hand-tossed pizzas.
“Most club snack bars were built as an afterthought,” says Scott Craig, CEC, CCA, WCMC, Director of Culinary Operations at Myers Park Country Club, Charlotte, N.C., who presented on the topic at the 2019 Chef to Chef Conference in New Orleans.
“The kitchen space is usually inadequate, and there’s typically a walk-up counter serviced by cooks who have to do double duty, cooking as they take orders,” Craig notes in describing what’s often found in snack-bar setups.
This was certainly the case at Myers Park until five years ago, when the club went all-in on a snack bar renovation.
“During opening weekend at the pool, the membership came out in full force,” says Craig. “Our snack bar—named the Shark Shack— was completely overwhelmed. Orders were taking too long and the staff was deep in the weeds. We knew something needed to change—and fast.”
Myers Park decided to renovate the Shark Shack, retooling it for speed and efficiency. “We were not willing to sacrifice quality, though,” says Craig. “Quality is what brings members to us in the first place.”
Craig worked with a designer and architect to come up with a layout that would better suit the needs of the members. He pitched the plan to the Myers Park house committee, and then to its Board. His budget of $75,000 was approved, and the three-month project began.
“We didn’t add hood space or change the physical structure,” says Craig. “Instead, we turned counter space into a service window, and created a new counter ahead of that window.
“We reduced the space for the membership by making it a walk-up concept.,” he adds. “And because of that, it allowed us to capture more space for the culinary team. We even added a full-time expeditor.”
Myers Park also invested in new equipment to help streamline service. Open display cases with specialty lighting were purchased, to allow the club to expand the snack bar menu and make service quicker.
Now, Myers Park prepares its cold food in advance of service. Entrée salads, sandwiches, sushi and snacks are lightly cryovac’d to maintain freshness, and packaged with a shiny gold-foil seal that shows the club’s logo and reflects beautifully off the pin lighting above the display case. All hot-food options are shown on a digital menu board above the counter, which gives the club the added advantage of changing the menu a la minute.
Thanks to these improvements, Myers Park’s Shark Shack now runs six minutes on its ticket times.
“Half of the menu is already in the display case,” says Craig. This allows the culinary team to focus on hot food, and on creating more interesting and exciting daily specials.
Color Me Healthy
This season, Myers Park plans to expand with more wellness-focused fare. The club will also enhance its plant-based menu and try to encourage kids to make more healthful choices.
“We are going to offer a daily greens bowl, as well as a super food salad,” says Craig.
There will also be homemade granola and protein bars, yogurt parfaits and fresh fruit cups, which proved super-popular with kids last summer.
This year, Craig and his team are partnering with Charlotte’s chapter of the American Culinary Federation to help further its “five a day the color way” program, which encourages kids to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
“Myers Park kids will have a passport that we’ll stamp when they choose a healthy option,” says Craig. “We’ll offer prizes based on how many stamps they earn—like a kids cooking class or a $150 gift card—to help engage them.”
On Deck at Doylestown CC
When Jason Hembree, Executive Chef of Doylestown (Pa.) Country Club, listened to Craig’s presentation on the snack bar transformation at Myers Park during the 11th annual Chef to Chef Conference, he wondered if Craig had somehow been reading his mind.
According to Hembree, Doylestown CC is on the cusp of a major snack bar renovation that will mimic what Myers Park has already done.
Currently, Doylestown CC doesn’t have dedicated destinations for golfers at the turn or for kids at the pool. Instead, golfers are served either through the locker rooms or at the pool bar, while kids can order from a walk-up window by the kitchen. Both scenarios present myriad challenges for members and staff.
“This spring, we’re going to build a stand-alone snack bar for our kids near the kiddie pool,” says Hembree. “We’ll serve ice cream, snacks, popsicles, granola bars, fruit cups, grab-and- go sandwiches and drinks from there, instead of from the window in the kitchen.”
This kid-focused dining destination will also be flexible enough to transform into other concepts for events.
Once the pool season is finished, Doylestown CC will begin renovating what is currently an outdoor barbecue and patio area. The plan is to add another small building with soft seating inside and out, along with a gas-fired pizza oven. Inside, members will be able to select pre-made sandwiches, salads and wraps from display cases—much like members can do at Myers Park—as well as a limited menu of hot items.
“We expect this new snack bar to become a destination for golfers and members alike,” says Hembree, who has been instrumental in selecting the equipment and design for both of the new spaces. “These snack bars will become amenities all on their own. And we’re designing them to be flexible, so they can transform into satellite concepts that support the main kitchen during events or outings.”