Eduardo Castillo, CEC, Executive Chef of San Antonio Country Club, offers operational ideas for when clubs come out the other side of the coronavirus crisis.
Clubs are resilient organizations. Many have survived the major incidents of the past century and many will also survive this pandemic. Over the last 6 weeks, online classes, podcasts, videos and other media has filled our social pages as we are all working hard on keeping members engaged.
Foodservice has shifted to meals that are now individual, frozen, hot, reheatable, or cook-at-home. Carryout is the new normal. What’s most fascinating is how food has become the center of our organizations during this time of crisis.
Here are San Antonio (Texas) Country Club, the most challenging part in the kitchen has been maintaining a six-foot gap. Last week, we had a city compliance officer check in to make sure we were keeping up with the social distancing guidelines. The visit was not related to the kitchen, but we are still being watched and reported. We are following the lead of retailers and marking spots on the floor to designate work stations and member order spots.
The future is uncertain. Who thought we were going to operate like this 30 days ago? Not me, that’s for sure. For now, We can only hope we will have a Memorial Day BBQ, Father’s Day and July 4th celebrations. We can only tap into our past experiences and take this time to think about what is next.
If we allow ourselves the chance to speculate we can begin by imagining as if the guidelines will reverse in the same order as they were placed. If I’m right, we will first revert back to limited seating, then small gatherings. Lower occupancy will likely become the new normal. As a result, we will need to rethink a great part of our business model for the upcoming months.
Here SACC, we are planning to move tables in the dining room to create larger spaces between each. We are also planning to utilize other areas of the clubhouse for dinning so that more members can eat with us while maintaining more distance between each. We will take over banquet areas, private rooms and other sections of the club to keep the same dining capacity spread across more square footage.
After taking care of the furniture and dining room atmosphere, we will focus on service. How many people can we have on staff while keeping a 6’ distance between each? How many covers can we deliver within these new guidelines? Have we considered what kind of menu we will be serving? How about beverage stations and service areas. Have we thought about bread service yet? How about service. How will we deliver the food to the table?
We must consider all of these things questions and remember that we are clubs with members who will have certain expectations. We must train our teams to respond thoughtfully, politely and consistently across the entire operation.
After all of this is over, and as hard as it can be to fathom, your favorite restaurant may be gone. It may take a while for a new place to open. For dining ideas, we are studying theme nights or theme areas that will operate almost like small restaurants within the club. They will be by reservation only, due to the limited capacity, and they will feature set menus to provide different and unique experiences that can be delivered with small staffs.
We will need to work on convincing our members to honor reservations times, table sizes and arrangements. We must work with them to accept different menus with less variety and more change to keep it interesting. Remember, this is all in the name of safe food and services.
We will persevere. We will adapt after all this is done. We will be stronger, more resilient and ultimately smarter.