Jenny Duce, CCM, LPGA, General Manager of North Ranch Country Club (Westlake Village, Calif.), embodies the power of passion and connection in the club industry. With a deep-rooted background in golf courses and clubs, Duce found her calling in club management, forging a path driven by her love for the game and a genuine understanding of member needs.
Her nearly eight-year tenure at North Ranch CC is a testament to her ability to navigate the challenges of a thriving F&B operation that constantly evolves and enhances the dining experience for members.
Club + Resort Chef (C+RC): How did you get into the club industry?
Jenny Duce (JD): I played golf in college and have always been drawn to the industry. It is comfortable because I have spent so much time around golf courses and clubs throughout my younger years. I thoroughly enjoy managing and can connect with members and staff because of my background.
C+RC: What brought you to North Ranch CC?
JD: I have been fortunate to work at many different industry structures, but had always wanted to learn about equity clubs. I was working at a smaller family-oriented country club nearby when North Ranch was looking for a GM. I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to work here and I’ve been here for over seven years now.
C+RC: What was the F&B operation like when you first came on board?
JD: The F&B operation was thriving when I arrived. The department was led by a tenured F&B Director and a talented club chef the members enjoyed. With any F&B operation, there are always challenges. Some of them balanced the number of catering events, member social events and regular, everyday dining.
C+RC: How has F&B at North Ranch CC evolved during your tenure?
JD: Over time, we have added more outlets and dining options. We have explored theming different outlets to have their own identity and menus so members have variety. We have improved our buffets in presentation and quality, too.
C+RC: What is your management style?
JD: My management style is to support the department heads, allow them to be the expert in their department, and guide them to help carry out the vision of the Board.
C+RC: What do you value most in a chef?
JD: Execution. It is a difficult job to satisfy so many different people, customize items, run events and dinners at the same time—and still provide wonderful food timely.
C+RC: What have been some of the club’s F&B goals over the years? And how has North Ranch CC achieved them?
JD: Goals are mostly about managing the fine line of member experience and running the kitchen as efficiently as possible with food costs, payroll and expenses. The ultimate goal is member satisfaction. We strive for that every year.
C+RC: What is your relationship with Executive Chef Edwin Roe? And how has it changed or evolved?
JD: Chef and I have a good relationship. We have worked through a lot of challenges with staffing changes, opening new areas, and providing high-volume food. We focus on communication to ensure we are on the same page.
C+RC: How do you believe Chefs, F&B Directors and GMs should stay on top or even ahead of F&B trends?
JD: By going out to restaurants, networking with other professionals, and listening to what members are saying about new items down the street at the local restaurant. All must pay attention to what is happening outside of North Ranch and have an open mind.
C+RC: What kinds of people thrive on your club’s F&B team?
JD: The people who thrive are those who are looking to grow and care about what they are producing, whether it be a dish for a la carte dining or a server giving great service.
C+RC: In what way does Food & Beverage impact the success of a club?
JD: F&B is an amenity of the club, but a critical amenity. There is a lot of competition nearby but we need to keep our members here versus going down the street. F&B is the one item that all members have in common and use. If we are known for great F&B, the word spreads and helps with membership.
C+RC: What are some common F&B mistakes that you’ve seen or that you’ve been careful to avoid?
JD: Not making decisions based solely on COS% or hitting a budget number. Also, not overreacting after one month if the numbers don’t look right, often timing and many factors can affect COS% and overall profitability.
C+RC: What is next for F&B at North Ranch CC?
JD: We just opened up a new outlet—our Athletic Center—open 7 days a week. We are just getting used to the volume and started with a soft opening. We will continue to add more for members to this outlet in the next few months, as we anticipate it getting very busy throughout the summer months.
C+RC: If you could tell chefs one thing about club management, what would it be?
JD: Club management is much different than a stand-alone restaurant; it takes patience, perseverance, and passion to succeed.