C+RC’s Editor, Joanna DeChellis, sheds light on how a la carte is fast becoming the 2020 pandemic hero.
My publisher, Tom McIntyre, loves data. He frequently asks me and Joe Barks, Editor of Club + Resort Business, to feed him data about our industry and about how the pandemic has impacted numbers. He wants to know about budgets, food costs and CapEx plans.
He loves data so much that he’s in the process of developing new content streams and collateral that will further tell the story of the full extent of the club market to the uninitiated.
We’ve always asked questions about the numbers. We even offer an “at a glance” box at the opening of every club profile, just so readers can benchmark against the numbers.
One of my favorite data points is the a la carte-to-banquet split. Whether it’s 50/50, 60/40 or however it shakes out, it gives me a good idea of just how busy a club is on each side of the operation.
Of late, banquets have all but disappeared. Even as they come back, they’re limited, smaller and far less profitable. Feeling this shift away from huge events, I decided to post a poll on LinkedIn asking followers to share their current a la carte to banquet split.
I posted the following options: 50/50, 60/40, 70/30 and 80/20 (with the larger percentage favoring a la carte in all cases).
Seventy-three percent of respondents chose 80/20 in favor of a la carte. A bunch more commented below the poll, to say that their numbers were now more in the 90/10 range.
We can bemoan the fact that banquets are gone—or we can look at what’s not gone.
I talk to club chefs all day every day, and I ask a lot of the same questions: How are your numbers? How do they stack up compared to last year? How are you making up for lost banquet business?
Time and time again, I’m told stories of how a la carte is booming and lessening the blow of fewer banquets.
When I interviewed Zack Wygant, General Manager/COO of Fort Wayne Country Club, for this issue’s Manager to Chef article, he dropped a surprising data point on me.
Between FY 2019 and FY 2020, a la carte sales have more than doubled at Fort Wayne CC. That’s right—they doubled in the midst of a pandemic.
When I drilled down into why and how that was possible, Zack gave me some very clear answers. The first was that he brought in a new Food & Beverage Director who has helped to redefine the service culture in the front of the house. Second, he unleashed the creativity of the club’s Executive Chef.
What this tells me is that creativity and leadership are the “data points” that are most vital to successfully navigating through this pandemic—and into whatever comes next.