Scott Craig, CEC, CCA, WCMC, Director of Culinary Operations at Myers Park Country Club, offers a behind-the-scenes look at how MPCC is caring for members during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Four weeks ago when I was in Germany with Team USA preparing for the Restaurant of Nations, the world was aware of coronavirus, but it was not yet taken seriously nor was it fully understood by the world at large.
During the judges’ meeting before the IKA/Culinary Olympics began, they warned us that our sanitation would be observed and scored like never before. They indicated to us that we would need to wash up to our elbows, wash each finger individually and wash the webbing between our fingers with each hand washing.
During the Parade of Nations, some of us noticed that some of the Asian countries were wearing surgical masks. The outbreak had already started in China three months prior to our arrival in Germany and while we were surprised by their level of seeming paranoia, Team China and others were likely surprised by the lack of response around them to what would soon be recognized as a pandemic.
Immediately upon our return to the United States, we learned that we would not be competing as planned in Singapore in April. The competition was cancelled as a result of the escalating coronavirus crisis.
Fast forward to March 13th. We are seeing images of empty streets in the Vatican, mass closings in the United States, a moratorium on international travel and an American stock market reeling from the rush of news.
Our club’s leadership team met on that day—Friday the 13th—to discuss our response to the pandemic and the alarming statistics that were coming out of Europe that day. We first met as a large team in order to understand where our management team stood. The second meeting happened with a smaller group and included our Club President and Immediate Past President. They listened thoughtfully and we arrived at a unanimous decision: Myers Park Country Club would serve its last meal in the dining rooms for the foreseeable future that evening.
Our largest concerns with this illness were as follows:
- It survives for an extended period of time on surfaces (five days on soft surfaces such as paper and cardboard, three days on nonporous surfaces).
- It has a relatively high mortality rate with older citizens (60-69, 3.6%; 70-79, 8%)
- The healthcare system is overwhelmed then the mortality rate will rise for younger demographics as demonstrated in China and Italy.
That evening our Culinary Leadership Team met to quickly devise a new business model which would achieve the following goals:
- Ensure the safety of our team members and members
- Offset lost revenue
- Support the local economy if at all possible.
We arrived at the following plan, effective Tuesday March 17th, to take place after a weekend of deep cleaning:
- Employee meals for our teams are now entirely pre-packaged, consisting of sandwiches, hot pockets which can be microwaved, granola bars, cereal packs, chips, and small milk cartons. All cups, plates and flatware for our employees are now disposable.
- Our team will serve lunch and dinner for our members curb side, between the hours of 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. We will serve a four-course package which serves 4-6 people, including 1 quart of soup, daily salad, a choice of three proteins, three sides, and a dessert. We will initially prepare 40 portions of each selection, with the ability to serve 120 families for lunch and dinner. We will scale up or down as needed as we move forward. The family pack will be sold for $70, with remaining meals sold to employees at-cost, and any remaining packaged food being delivered to the Harvest Center, a local soup kitchen that we work with.
- Additionally, we will offer items on a separate menu on an a la carte basis, to include chicken salad, pasta salad, potato salad, grain salad, vegetable soup, and steaks by the cut.
- We have also reached out to our local partners to allow them to market their products directly to our members. Members will have access to a large menu of fresh produce, grains, micro-greens, breads, dairy and fresh doughnuts which will be available for preorder and available for pickup at lunch or dinner on Friday. Our hope is that this will help our members avoid the hectic grocery stores and enjoy incredible product at home, while offering relief to our local partners who are feeling the impact of lower volume in local restaurants.
Our team members who are of an advanced age or are pregnant have been relieved from work immediately with full pay.
Our culinary team will work in three shifts spread out over a twenty-four-hour day in order to create social distance and to provide an option for employees with two working parents and a child who is out of school. Our first and second shifts prepare, cook and chill product for the following day, third shift packages, and our front of the house team labels and boxes items for pickup. Front of house will place the items in our members’ cars, without contact, when they pull up.
Our production teams will not overlap, and front and back of house have no reason to interact in person. Additional front of the house staff will buttress our stewarding team and will constantly sanitize our workstations and door handles throughout the twenty-four-hour day.
Lastly, I will send out a request to members early this week asking that they please continue to support their favorite local restaurants, many of whom employ our former employees and are our extended family. Local restaurants have offered to sell gift cards at a 20% discount to our members, providing them with needed revenue right now, and our members with an exclusive discount which they can use however they would like.
Clubs and memberships vary, this particular model is a fit for us, even though it would be extreme for some clubs and conservative for others. Our members have responded very positively so far, offering to volunteer their kids who are out of school to deliver food for us, offering their vehicles to pick up orders, and of course offering to support the Curbside program.
Good luck out there, brothers and sisters. You are not only artists and craftspeople; you are businesspeople and leaders of people. All of those skills that brought you to this point in your careers will help to pull your teams and your neighbors through this time of crisis. It’s your time to shine and we have never needed your leadership more than right now.