Lexington CC’s Executive Chef Matthew Blazey believes creativity is a trial-and-error process and that less-than-perfect ideas are building blocks to better ones.
The turbulent and fluid nature of 2020 opened our eyes. It allowed us to find out what our club and operations were really made of when faced with uncertain futures. Restrictions in one area—specifically events—allowed us to grow in another (a la carte). We were forced to look at things through a new lens, which is typically a very difficult thing to do in the middle of busy season.
If last year taught us anything here at Lexington Country Club, it’s that anything is possible.
With things still relatively up in the air, we’ve put a major focus on how we will expand on significant “wins” from last year as well as how we can alter various ideas that didn’t necessarily work but were good ideas in theory. We refuse to assume everything is going to simply change because it’s 2021. Many of the restrictions will be around for a while longer. Not only that, but our members’ concept, understanding and expectation of social distancing will be affected even long after the pandemic has lifted, resulting in our need to accommodate and remain flexible for weeks, months and maybe even years.
Here at Lexington CC, we tried and implemented so many different programs over the last year. We drastically altered our service standards to accommodate our members safety and follow regulations. We made a pivot when looking at our event and banquet styling. We expanded take-out and outside catering offerings.
In the past, our wine dinners have been quite large. This is great as it allows as many members to enjoy themselves as possible. However they tend to hinder the extent of what we can do creatively. They’re also a touch impersonal. With limited group sizes, we have found that these smaller dinners are now selling out within hours, often before pricing and/or menus are event announced. We’ve also found an unforeseen niche. Moving further into 2021, we’ll be focusing on much more intimate style dinners, capped somewhere between 20 and 30, with varying themes and cuisines. These are not only great for our members but our team as well! They allow us to grow professionally and remind us why we got into this industry. It’s a win-win.
Oftentimes, banquet and event menu are predictable. When a group is coming for a luncheon, they have an idea of what to expect. During 2020, we were able to get creative when looking at these types of events and look to see how we might break the monotony of guest expectations. We moved away from buffets and incorporated diverse stations which keep people at a distance and limit possible exposure. These stations also allowed the team to explore options and offerings which weren’t done previously such as replacing a beef carving station with a house cured and smoked pork belly station or replacing omelet stations with crepe stations.
These chef-manned stations also allowed us to bring a past sense of normalcy back to the room in a time when interacting with others was hindered. Member are able to safely interact with cooks all the while feeling and remaining safe.
This year’s banquet menus will absolutely capitalize on these learnings. We will also be introducing a much more composed themed style when looking at banquets. For example, salad stations will either be tossed a la minute by an attendant or pre-composed salads will be plated so guests can simply grab and go to limit not only congregating, but also the number of hands utilizing utensils.
Another key factor we considered when planning for 2021 was our members’ expectations. We accept that our members want these restrictions to end just as much—if not more so—than we do. This means that when they do lift, we need to be ready. We have planned critical upgrades in the kitchen such as refurbishing and adding crucial equipment like ovens, warmers and heating elements. We’ve also looked at the layout of the kitchen and identified areas of efficiency to better support our increased a la carte revenues.
Additionally, we’ll be heightening our focus on al fresco dining. This will entail social and a la carte offerings to include barbecues with visible and interactive smokers, grillouts with daily or weekly themed options and outside bars. This past year we had several patio and lawn themed chef’s dinner where the team took a locavore approach with local farmers and local representatives in attendance to mingle and educate our members on what their region has to offer. With the tremendous success of these dinners, we have already started planning more for the months ahead.
Despite all the physical changes the club will be implementing in 2021, the biggest area of focus is an idea and concept. It’s the understanding that anything is possible. When we tried something the first time and it was beneficial, great. However, we need to learn that when we try something that doesn’t turn out the way we hope, it’s not worth tossing the idea aside. We want our members to enjoy our ideas and its our obligation to make them work with tweaks, creativity and passion.