As GM/COO, Brett Morris is uniquely qualified to expand and enhance the culinary operation at The Club at Admirals Cove.
Brett Morris stepped in as GM/COO of The Club at Admirals Cove (Jupiter, Fla.) in February of 2020, after nearly eight years as GM/COO of The Polo Club of Boca Raton (Fla.). With a diverse background, including time spent on the line, Morris is prepared to usher the club into a new culinary era. He’s being proactive about creating engaging culinary experiences, nurturing a new staff and expanding the footprint of the club’s culinary program.
CRC: What made you decide to leave The Polo Club of Boca Raton and come to The Club at Admirals Cove?
BM: One of the best jobs I’ve ever had in my career was at Fresh Meadow Country Club in Lake Success, N.Y. What I loved about that club was the relationships I was able to have with the members. I had great relationships with the members of Polo, but it was such a large club with so many moving parts that it was difficult to really get to know members individually.
Admirals Cove reminds me of Fresh Meadow.
CRC: What was your first impression of the food-and-beverage operation at Admirals Cove?
BM: The club needed help putting the right people in the right positions. They also hadn’t done much branding with regard to the restaurants or updating menus, so everything kind of blended together.
CRC: Was there any friction when you started making changes?
BM: I think when a new GM is hired, people automatically put their guard up. My goal was not to come in and fire everybody, rather it was to make positive change so that the operation was better able to serve the membership.
The food-and-beverage industry has changed a ton and it continues to evolve. People join clubs for lifestyle reasons, not just golf. It’s our responsibility to advance our programs.
CRC: What did you learn at Polo that set you up for success at Admirals Cove?
BM: Surround yourself with a winning team and then give them the tools they need to succeed.
That’s where a lot of managers and chefs fail. They don’t hire smart people because they’re concerned that these people could take their jobs. That’s not the way I do things. I surround myself with smart people and we collaborate to make the membership experience the best it possibly can be.
I may have gone from a $55 million business to a $35 million business, but food and beverage is food and beverage. We have to deliver on a daily basis and live and die by consistency.
CRC: What were some of the first changes you made?
BM: The first and most impactful change was hiring Ethan Kostbar as Executive Chef. Once he was on board, we began rebranding the restaurants, to give each its own menu and identity. We also added an upscale steakhouse concept. We’re now in the process of launching a new ice cream concept called Hooked On Scoops that will serve homemade ice cream, gelato and upscale coffee drinks.
CRC: How big is Hooked on Scoops? And where is it located?
BM: It’s actually right across from our busiest restaurant, the Marina Café, and not far from our fitness center. It will give members more grab-and-go options all day long as well as more interaction after dinner, if they just want to walk over to get a cappuccino or ice cream.
CRC: What was in the space previously?
BM: It was a small kitchen—maybe 400 square feet—that was connected to our kids’ space, but it wasn’t actively being used for anything. All we had to do was cut a hole in the wall for a service window and buy some new equipment. We were able to add another venue for members that will likely do a lot of revenue, for very little money.
CRC: What was the cost to create this concept?
BM: It cost right around $30,000.
CRC: How will you service and staff this space?
BM: We are fortunate to have an outstanding Executive Pastry Chef in Christophe Joly who oversees all of our in-house pastry production and will run the menu for this concept as well.
CRC: Are the members excited?
BM: They are! I think they’re actually more excited about the fact that we’ve added another amenity to enhance the experience of being at the club.
CRC: What is Chef Kostbar like?
BM: He’s easy to work with. He understands the needs of the members and he’s able to connect with them by being visible in the dining room, listening to their constructive feedback. Chefs are like artists and when somebody is critical of your food, a lot of chefs don’t like to hear that. You have to have humility and understand that food is subjective and everybody has different tastes. He doesn’t get upset if somebody had a bad meal or if somebody is a little critical of his food. He’s always looking at how we can improve and make things better.
CRC: What types of people thrive on Admiral Cove’s culinary team?
BM: People who are creative, energetic, have a good work ethic and really understand leadership as good core values thrive here.
It’s one thing for the Executive Chef to set the tempo. It’s quite another for the team to take what the chef has set in place and make sure it’s carried out daily. It’s not just about coming to the club and cooking. It’s about giving the team some responsibility for the operation, whether that’s having them develop specials or by having an internal culinary competition.
CRC: You’re a former chef. Do you miss being in the kitchen?
BM: I don’t miss being in the kitchen, but I do sometimes miss the creativity of it. I was a good chef, but I feel like I was always born to be out with people in the front of the house, engaging the membership and creating experiences.
CRC: How does your background as a chef help you as a manager?
BM: To have that food-and-beverage background and understand not only the front of the house, but also what goes on in the kitchen and offer that support to the chef and the culinary team, is extremely beneficial.