Ansley GC’s Executive Chef Kevin Walker, CMC, says the success of a renovation project is directly attributed to the planning of these elements.
In January, Ansley Golf Club (Atlanta, Ga.) broke ground on a three-million-dollar renovation project which encompassed both locker rooms and updating the infrastructure of the kitchen to expand its footprint and replace critical equipment. This is the sixth renovation I have been part of. One was when I was a sous chef, one was when I was a Director of Operations, and I’ve done four renovations as an Executive Chef. More at this read at their blog
I have made my fair share of mistakes with each renovation. I’ve also learned and grown from each. Most of that growth has been in realizing what I wouldn’t do again. Another common thread through each renovation has also emerged: Planning and preparation are critical before the first hammer is ever raised.
An area that can easily be overlooked in the renovation process is the relaunch of your program. When thinking of the relaunch, thoughts generally lean towards your menu. But I submit there are several other areas encompassed in a relaunch that are just as, if not more, important than your new menu selections (though those are obviously important, too).
During most renovation projects, a culinary program becomes a shell of its former self, operating at a much lower capacity. If done correctly, you have the ability to cull your staff. This gives you the ability to shed those underperforming or disruptive team members, and opens the doors for you to hire new talent which will fit into the culture you want to build. Crucial in this process is defining your culture, and I would argue, as with the renovation itself, should start long before that first hammer is raised. Once defined, hiring the team members becomes streamlined because you are hiring to your core values and the process mirrors your culture.
Processes can also be challenged, updated and changed. How one writes menus, specials, takes inventory, restocks, cleans, stores, and assigns tasks all may now be redefined. All the hows, whats and whys may be rewritten to fit within the expectations.
“This is the way we have always done it” is easily dismissed when walls have been rebuilt and the culture has been rewritten.
Hopefully during the renovation project, you committed time to menu development. Spending time rewriting and formatting menus is critical. The membership’s perception is things will be different. Most members never see “behind the curtain” and because of this, their expectations may not align with the scope of the renovation. The members have agreed to spend significant dollars on an area not seen. Their impression will be based solely on what is placed on the table during their first post-renovation dining experience. If menu and recipe due diligence wasn’t performed during the so called “close down” you will find it difficult to make a good second “first impression.”
Having the ability to align your yearly capital budget with a renovation project may allow you to get more bang from your buck. Knowing a project is on the horizon, you may be able to plan the replacement of depreciated assets using annual capital dollars, thereby freeing up money in the renovation project.
Anyone who has been through a renovation will tell you it can be long and arduous, but hopefully the outcome is worth the pain.