As a former chef, Carolina Country Club’s COO/GM, Jack Slaughter, has deep respect for the work and challenges faced by club chefs, especially CCC’s Executive Chef Patrick Colley.
As a former chef, Jack Slaughter, Chief Operating Officer and General Manager of Carolina Country Club (CCC) in Raleigh, N.C., has a unique perception of food-and-beverage programs. He not only has a special passion for this aspect of club operations, he fully understands its significance to the membership and the role it plays in the club’s overall success.
Slaughter’s culinary past has also improved his ability to support CCC’s food-and-beverage team, led by Executive Chef Patrick Colley, so that the operation can continue to grow year over year beyond its current $5 million standing.
C2C: After a handful of years as a chef, how did you transition into club management?
JS: I was able to do some front-of-the-house work in Atlanta in some of the restaurants I worked in, and I really enjoyed it. I can speak the same language as the cooks in the kitchen, but I enjoy interacting with guests in the front of the house, too. I thought the club business would be a good fit for me, so when I came across an opening at Atlanta Country Club to be an Assistant Manager, I jumped at it.
C2C: You were then at a number of other clubs before you came to Carolina CC, where you’ve been for more than nine years now. Tell us about CCC’s operation.
JS: We have 1,300 members and 18 holes of golf. The club was established in 1910 and we are currently in our fourth clubhouse. We’ve had a full membership roster since the ‘80s with a very long wait list—somewhere around six years.
C2C: And the food-and-beverage operation?
JS: We do a little more than $4.9 million in annual F&B. We’re split 55/45 a la carte to banquet. We have four dining spaces: Bistro 1910, the grill room, a 19th hole and the Loggia restaurant bar and terrace.
C2C: Bistro 1910 is newer. When did it open, and how much did it cost to renovate?
JS: It opened in September of 2015 and is a casual dining space (see photo, opposite page). At the same time, we added a patio with separate adult and family spaces. Collectively, the project cost about $1.7 million.
C2C: What was it like before, and now?
JS: Previously, it was a chopped-up and dated space with no real identity. We took the existing room, gutted it, and created a more casual atmosphere with a big bar, more seating, booths and community tables. We also added a small open kitchen that serves small plates only to the Bistro, which has vastly helped to improve speed of service.
It is by far our busiest outlet now. During the design process, I said I wanted a concept that our older members would hate. I wanted it to be loud and bar-like—and it is.
C2C: Do your older members hate it?
JS: Some do—but a far greater majority enjoy it.
C2C: Do you consider F&B an important part of your operation?
JS: The goal of any club is to serve your members. In order to serve them, we have to bring them into the club. The best way for us to do that is through dining. So yes, F&B is arguably the most critical part of an operation, as it touches every member and is a key reason behind why they come here.
C2C: Your Executive Chef, Patrick Colley, has been with CCC for nine years. You brought him with you from your previous club in Louisville. What do you value most in him?
JS: There are a number of things that I think set him apart from other chefs. He has high standards. And he pays close attention to detail. He’s ethical and loyal. And he builds a team filled with people who have similar characteristics and share his vision of what the operation should be.
He cares about his staff, and he mentors them so that they get as much out of their time here as they put in. He also understands the bigger picture. He’s wonderful with members, and his food is outstanding.
C2C: As GM/COO, how do you support Him?
JS: I recognize his skills and abilities—which are vast—and I provide leadership and resources when needed. I give him the autonomy to do his job and he knows that I am here if he needs me. I don’t get involved in the day-to-day details, which is hard for me because I love food-and-beverage. But this is a large club and I don’t have the time to be involved in the minutiae. Chef Colley is capable and effective at what he does.
C2C: It sounds like you have a great deal of respect for Chef Colley.
JS: I respect him both personally and professionally. We’re very much alike and we’ve known one another for a long time. We bounce ideas off of each other and feed off of one another’s creativity and imagination. We’re always in the same thought mode, and we’re keyed into what our members like and want.
C2C: What kind of people thrive on CCC’s culinary team?
JS: This might be a better question for Chef! I see that he gravitates toward people who think outside the box; people who are motivated and have a good work ethic; people with passion. He develops his staff very well, so when he finds someone who is a good fit, he works with them to cultivate them as a cook.
C2C: Why do you think Colley has stayed with CCC?
JS: He is extremely self-motivated. He spends tons of time looking at what’s going on in the industry and figuring out how to translate that for our club. He also has the flexibility to mentor and coach. And I think that helps keep him fresh. He has the ability to attend events like the Chef to Chef Conference, which help him connect with other chefs to learn and bring new ideas back to us.
C2C: From your perspective, having been in this industry for nearly 30 years, how has our focus on F&B evolved, and why are we better for it?
JS: The biggest change has been in the kitchen. Clubs are now able to attract some of the top culinarians in the industry and inspire them to think outside the box and to do more than they ever could if they were in a traditional, free-standing restaurant.
The chef is now the center of the club’s food and beverage operation—and rightfully so—because he or she is talented, smart and savvy about business. This permeates all parts of the club. We’re not just a golf course with a menu. We’re a restaurant with a golf course.
C2C: What’s next for F&B at CCC?
JS: Our family dining spaces need a facelift. They need to be at the same level as Bistro 1910. That will likely happen in May of 2017. After that, we’re talking about redoing our Loggia concept into something more modern and trendy. We want to make the terrace usable year-round.