Café 1914 has become the much-needed outlet for the club’s baking team, complete with two display cases filled daily with new products.
Like everyone in food and beverage, we were presented with the challenge of thinking on our feet like never before in 2020. As business levels inevitably declined and shifted, our thinking across the campus was to continue to exceed the expectations of our members, and to do so while retaining top talent. But then how to find work for them?
Like most, we were able to quickly update and promote our to-go food menu, streamlining it to feature comfort foods and dishes that traveled well, and by offering a “Feed the Family” pre-order meal service. We also implemented curbside pick-up. And then a series of high-end pop-up restaurants, socially distanced in the banquet spaces that were now not in use.
Meanwhile, we had spent much of that past two years rebuilding our baking and pastry department, transforming it into a quality-first unit that makes everything in-house. Simply stated, the model is to execute the classics classically, but push the envelope with new concepts and techniques, and no shortcuts. Our members and guests were quick to respond favorably, and I was particularly proud of the team’s collaborative spirit and willingness to take on any challenge. As 2020 unfolded, we found that our baking team had the opportunity to do more. We started with the recipe book – testing, revising and updating until every recipe was the best possible version that we could do and appropriately scaled to volume. But ultimately, we needed an outlet for the products that we had worked so hard on. Better than that, we needed a revenue center.
Here at the Country Club of Jackson (Miss.), we have a small banquet room that has a courtyard adjacent to it. It wasn’t a popular space for events because of its small size, but it was a charming room, abundant with character, and a favorite of members and staff alike. Over the years, the Board and GM had many conversations about what else we could ultimately do with the room, but typically it would end up as a private space for a bridal party, or used for intimate wine dinners and tasting menus. One of the concepts that had long been championed by our GM was a coffee house.
So early in the summer of 2020, we put together a pro forma, drew up plans and presented it to the board. They approved it and Café 1914 was born. This has become the much-needed outlet for the baking team, complete with two display cases filled daily with everything from macrons and entremets to popovers and muffins. The fully formed concept includes several offerings. (Click here to view the Café 1914 menu.)
For beverages, there is a full espresso and coffee menu, effectively offering everything one could order at Starbucks, even blender drinks and kids drinks. A bar menu with liquor, cordials, wine and adult coffee drinks was created to drive in the evening crowds. We added an ice cream freezer, and now offer 6-8 homemade flavors, all at 22 percent or more butterfat.
About the same time that we opened the café, we launched a pre-order custom cakes program. This has been a popular addition with premium cakes available for any occasion. Our bakers speak directly with the members to make recommendations and get the details just right.
Most recently we started a grab-and-go soup by the quart menu. And naturally, on soup day we offer house-made ciabatta and whipped herb butter. In an effort to continually drive traffic into the café, members pick up their orders there, or they can choose curbside pick-up, having their order brought out to their car by the café staff.
Uncertain times require caution as we all know. Everything in Café 1914 is designed to be easily disassembled and moved elsewhere, should we ever decide to dismantle it. But after its recent success, I don’t think our members would let us do that. And at this point, none of us could imagine not having this warm and cheery café on-site. It has offered something nourishing and meaningful to us all after an unprecedented year of ups and downs.