Kelly Greens G&CC’s Executive Chef Drew Tait explains the pressures of balancing a new outdoor dining space with an already busy kitchen.
On October 1st, we opened our new outside dining area on schedule and within budget. Since then it has been a big hit with our members. We have seen members who traditionally do not join us in the dining room start to come outside for food and beverages plus we have seen a slight uptick in overall usage. Traditionally a member might come in for lunch after golf but then go else where for dinner. But with this new space, we have seen members come back to the club because they have a different venue to choose from which gives them verity and us a second opportunity that day to serve them something delicious.
Overall, we have received a very positive response to opening this new dining area. We hear feedback that we need to add more seating as we only have 45 seats out there currently. We are looking at adding some deep seating, high top tables and fire pits to create an environment where members can relax for an extended period of time and have a cocktail. We could consider adding additional tables for members to eat at but since our kitchen renovation and expansion was not passed back in March, mainly due to COVID-19, I worry about overloading the line once things get back to normal.
If we add an additional 50-100 seats outside for full service dining it would take our seat count north of 250 for the whole club house. We already have to keep the menu limited during high season due to the volume coming off the line. I want to add something to accommodate more members and I think deep seating and fire pits is the best way to do this while balancing the stress on the kitchen. This is something to be aware of if your club is looking to add a new outlet or patio area to a single kitchen operation. Be careful that you are thinking long term along with short term. We are not yet hosting any private parties, outside functions or even club events like concerts, welcome back party. If these do come back online along with our added seat count, we would be stretching the limits of what our kitchen could physically handle.
Also, now that the evening will be getting darker earlier here in South West Florida, we have invested in lights to go under all of the umbrellas at the tables to allow the members to see the menus easier. I purchased some lights that have a wide variety of color options so in the future when we start doing entertainment nights again, we can make the environment a little more fun and party like outside at night. Another challenge we may have to decide how to handle is mosquitos, no-see-ums and flies. Bugs like these can shut down a wonderful evening very quickly. We had looked at getting some kind of commercial spraying unit that would keep the population of these critters down at all times. But we are also looking into options of citronella or thermo-cell systems to try to make this space enjoyable.
Its very exciting to see change happening here at Kelly Greens and it is a privilege to be one of the leaders helping to guide our team and our membership though these times. Along with outside dining, we added a new beverage cart in November that has been well received by the members. We are also looking at possibly introducing home delivery of meals inside the community’s gates as well. I think both of these additions have given the members a wide variety of amenities to choose from while giving the F&B team more chances to have a positive impact on a member’s experience.