Murrieta, Calif.-based Bear Creek’s dining experience covers everything from fast casual to fine dining, led by Executive Chef Daniel Fish, who has a knack for developing unique and complex flavors, pulling from his background in traditional American gastronomy.
Despite the culinary team’s talent, for many years, Bear Creek had a well-utilized golf course but an underutilized clubhouse. In late 2021, GM Tim Gardner and Clubhouse Manager Logan Willis developed a plan to dramatically change the dining experience at the club and improve food-and-beverage sales.
Construction broke ground in early 2022 on a major patio expansion that would increase the total seating capacity by 40%. Along with increasing seating areas, the club aimed to improve the ambiance by creating an indoor/outdoor “California” feel.
Six large 20-inch accordion doors replaced the wall between the dining room and patio. This allowed the main dining room to open 120 feet of previously closed wall straight into the patio. This concept was also created in the bar area where another 30 feet of wall was opened as an indoor/outdoor bar area. This eight-chair bar has quickly become one of the most popular areas in the clubhouse. Next came an expansion of the patio, doubling the space. New fire pits were installed along with heaters, television sets and a windscreen system.
To top it off, a custom pizza oven, wet bar and barbecue center was created. Click here for Fish’s recipe for smoked beef short rib (pictured below).
The final touches for the main dining room were fresh carpet and 36 temperature-regulated wine lockers, along with a dedicated wine venue. The lockers were sold out less than two weeks after installation.
While improving the atmosphere was a big step in members’ experiences, the outdoor kitchen and custom pizza oven brought a new level of excitement and attendance—plus, it dramatically improved operational efficiency.
On any given day, up to 160 members will dine and enjoy the golf course views from the patio. With the wood-fired pizza oven, it is not uncommon for the club to turn out 80-100 pizzas in a three-hour period. A pizza takes five minutes to assemble and cook in the 700-plus-degree oven that can handle 3-4 pizzas at a time. This drastically reduced ticket time and took pressure off the kitchen and dining room waitstaff—and food costs dropped 20%.
Due to a 40% increase in member use, the club began hosting regular entertainment, such as comedy and magic shows, with attendance that would triple that of previous years. Sunday brunches that fell flat the season before were suddenly attracting 250-plus people.
Another example of sales growth came from the creation of a wine club. When COVD hit, the club started to offer retail wine sales to the membership that would beat the price of surrounding stores. This program has grown to over $250,000 a year in sales, making it one of the top wine-selling clubs in Southern California.
This morphed into a wine membership program that supported adding temperature-controlled wine lockers. This grew into private wine tastings and specially curated wine dinners, adding another layer to membership value.
Revenue soared by over 40% after re-opening in June 2022. Bear Creek is on pace to grow from $2.2 million in 2022 to over $3 million in 2023. Food costs have seen a decrease from 50% to 40%, and labor costs have seen an even larger reduction, from 55% to 39%. And, as word of changes spread, Bear Creek saw an increase in 160 members over the past year, now resting north of 670 members.
The revenue increase has resulted in the ability to retain quality staff members. Due to increased activity and subsequent gratuities, the average server is making over $70,000 annually, an increase of over $16,000 year over year. In turn, the members now get to see a familiar face that’s qualified and knows exactly what they want each time they visit.
The completion of construction in 2022 and new additions to the patio and clubhouse were the springboard for Bear Creek Golf Club’s food-and-beverage operation to meet its potential—providing the ultimate in culinary experience for members, from barbecue to pizza to gourmet wine dinners.