Seven club chefs offer their best advice for building successful a la carte menus.
Even the best menus must change from time to time. Whether it’s a seasonal update, removing dishes that aren’t selling well, or adding in new favorites, these dos and don’ts can help club chefs with their
a la carte menu development.
DO strive for menu dishes that keep members engaged.
“When we create a menu, we don’t ask ourselves if a dish will make money,” says Matthew Blazey, Executive Chef, Lexington (Ky.) Country Club. “Instead, we ask if our members will appreciate it, if they’ll insist that their friends come to the club to try it, and if they’ll pass on dining elsewhere to come here for this particular dish.
“We don’t cook for ourselves as club chefs,” Blazey emphasizes. “We cook for our members. That’s not to say you can’t believe in the food you’re cooking—but the satisfaction of your membership has to be the driving factor for what you put on your menu.”
DO follow trends.
“We keep an eye on menus at local restaurants, to see what they are doing that our members might be eager to try,” says TJ Garrish, CEC, Executive Chef, L’Hirondelle Club of Ruxton (Towson, Md.). “Keeping up with trends and staying hyper-seasonal also helps to drive engagement with our members.”
DON’T overdo it.
“We’ve gone away from the whole ‘bigger is better’-style menu and streamlined our offerings to be smaller, but focused on quality, seasonality, local ingredients and creative cuisine,” says Anthony Capua, Executive Chef, Sycamore Hills Golf Club (Fort Wayne, Ind.). “If you’re going to run a seven- or eight-entree menu, change it every two weeks, and be sure to keep dishes fresh and well-conceived.”
DON’T forget who you have on the line.
“Keep your menus simple and easy to execute,” says Matthew O’Connor, CEC, WCEC, Executive Chef, Bonnie Briar Country Club (Larchmont, N.Y.).
“Consider the skill level of the staff that has to consistently execute these dishes,” adds Rich Hoffman, CEC, CCA, AAC, WCMC, CDM, CFPP, Executive Chef, Country Club of Maryland (Towson, Md.).
DO bring personality to the menu.
“Get creative with the specials,” says O’Connor.
“I use a grid process,” adds Hoffman. “I start with seasonal produce, proteins, cooking methods, starches and sauces. Then I base the dish off of masculine or feminine profiles, and couple that with sales mixes, price points and regional favorite flavors.”
“All chefs should walk the dining room and talk about the food,” says Jeff Perez, Executive Chef, Fairview Country Club (Greenwich, Conn.). “The successful club chef builds the bridge between his/her creativity, traditional club food and understanding what the membership wants.”
DON’T forget your vendors.
“First and foremost, we look at seasonality and availability of product, especially nowadays,” says Andrew Maggitti, CEC, Executive Chef of Rehoboth Beach (Del.) Country Club. “We build specials based on our own creativity and on what’s available at the market.” C+RC