With memberships trending down in age, clubs are increasingly finding that big holiday events have become even more important to members.
With so many moving parts during this busy time of year, though, it’s critical for clubs to stay organized and keep the lines of communication open.
At Shuttle Meadow Country Club in Kensington, Conn., Executive Chef Jason Chartier is extremely busy during the holiday season, between private parties, member events and a la carte dining. But with a seasoned team of professionals in the kitchen, he’s confident in the club’s ability to do it all.
“We do everything from full to-go dinners at Thanksgiving to a huge candlelight ball on New Year’s Eve, with a brunch the following day,” he says. “Menus are in a constant state of flux, but that’s what our members have come to expect.”
Upscale proteins, including lobster tails, filet mignon, whole boar tenderloins and Chilean sea bass, tend to be the stars of the plate during the holidays at Shuttle Meadow, where nearly 360 members generate $1.2 million in annual F&B revenue.
“We do a lot of roasted whole racks of veal, veal rib racks and game birds, too,” says Chartier, who came to the club three years ago and has been working diligently since then to lower food costs and streamline procedures. “The holiday season is one of the biggest ‘splurge times’ for our members.”
To support that spirit, Chartier and his team go above and beyond to cater to any requests. “I try really hard to never say ‘no,’” he says. “If a member asks for something, I can usually find a way to make it happen.”
With a new chef and general manager joining a seasoned F&B director, The Georgia Club, Statham, Ga., is equally excited about the upcoming holiday season.
“One of our top priorities is going to be prep,” says the new chef, Ray Whitlock, who was previously Executive Chef for Nashville’s MStreet Entertainment Group. “We’re also focused on creating menus that are high-quality, but easy to execute.”
Kasier Swan, The Georgia Club’s Food and Beverage Director, reports that, “We do a lot of holiday parties and corporate events, in addition to the traditional member events during this season.” The club’s holiday season generally starts the week before Thanksgiving and runs through New Year’s Day, Swan notes.
“We have at least three or four events on the calendar each week this year, in addition to our normal dining programs,” reports Ray Garbiras, General Manager, who came to The Georgia Club—which has 540 members, is open to the public, and does about $4.5 million in F&B annually—at the beginning of 2014. “But we’ve built a very strong and capable staff.”
Communication is going to be an important part of the club’s success this year, says Whitlock. Ditto for staying organized and focused, while constantly bending to members’ needs and wants.
One example of catering to its members’ holiday preferences is also one of The Georgia Club’s most successful traditions—and one all three leaders are looking forward to this year.
Instead of a big party on New Year’s Eve, the club offers a prix fixe, four-course dinner in its main dining room between 6 and 9 p.m.
“In the past, huge New Year’s Eve parties were never well-attended,” says Swan. “Instead, by opening our restaurant and offering an upscale dining experience, we are able to capture more traffic—and satisfy more members and guests.”