Kevin Walker, CMC, Executive Chef of Ansley Golf Club, shares how his club has handled operations as COVID-19 has many clubs and communities going into various stages of lockdown.
On January 2, 2020, Ansley Golf Club (Atlanta, Ga.) began a $3 million renovation to the kitchen, men’s and women’s locker rooms. Expected to take no more than 4 months, the department heads, long range planning committee and board put together a plan to keep to servicing the member’s with as little interruption as possible. We tented the pavilion at the pool and set up a la carte dining with a limited menu from the pool kitchen. Our 1912 restaurant became the temporary banquet kitchen. From it, we serviced all banquets and the new mixed grill (formerly the men’s grill), offering daily buffets for breakfast, lunch, and dinner to adults only. To help keep culinary staff employed, all buffets encompassed some type of action station.
While January started slow, we quickly picked up in February. In fact, we exceeded our budget by nearly $100,000 and March was tracking to beat budget as well.
Then this new reality hit—and it seems to change daily. As COVID-19 continues to spread, each day becomes a of caring for the health and wellbeing of members and staff, while figuring out what services, if any, can be offered at limited risk.
Over the past two to three weeks, we have implemented the following operating procedures and taken several steps to help make sure we curb the spread of COVID-19.
First, we placed hand-sanitizing stations at all entrances and buffets for members. In our daily line-ups, we stressed the importance of hand washing and correct glove usage. We asked for people, both members and staff, to stay at home if they were not feeling well. If the staff had not accrued, or had used all their vacation, holiday or PTO up, we would pull from upcoming years as necessary.
When that seemed unsafe, we added a server to serve members from our buffets. Using single use gloves, the attendant would assist the member through the buffet. In the kitchen, we also stepped up sanitation. Sanitizing all work surfaces every 30 minutes, changing utensils in the break room and wiping all handrails (both front and back of house every 15 minutes), and placing a moratorium on hand shaking or physical contact.
Then, last week, we cancelled all buffets, social, golf and tennis events, and began a la carte service only. We designed lunch and dinner to-go menus. Lunch is a limited a la carte, while dinner is 3-course meal for four people priced at $65 inclusive. We also began serving only prepackaged sandwiches for family meal.
On St. Patrick’s Day, we officially suspended all activities at the club. We will revisit the closing on March 31st. Members may still play golf and tennis, but there is no support staff on property. The clubhouse and fitness centers are locked with no member entrance allowed. We have suspended all dining options. The board called an emergency meeting to determine if we will move forward with to-go food only.
All staff is being compensated their 13-week average pay over the next two weeks. We will be giving away all perishable items and produce to the staff at no cost.
I have spoken with many of my colleagues around Atlanta and the country. There seems to be no right answer to this situation. There is no silver bullet to combat our current situation. It is ever-evolving and it calls for us to remain flexible and agile as we think outside the box. Though Ansley is in a strong financial position, weathering this storm will be taxing. I am confident we will get through it and I am thankful we have a board and membership who believe in supporting the staff and their families.