Executive Chef Thayer Johnson transformed the dining room at Orinda CC into a pop-up steakhouse that generated a ton of buzz and will be replicated.
As we approach our busy seasons, we must stay fresh and relevant to our members if we want them to continue dining at the club. But how can we do that?
Here at Orinda (Calif.) Country Club, we change our menus about once a month. But even then, we’re still cooking the same dishes night after night and many of our members are ordering and eating the same dishes night after night. So how do we encourage them to try new things?
One way is by offering unique member events. We have a very active membership here, but one way we’ve found that we really engage with them is by hosting pop-up restaurants for two days in our main dining room. For the first one, we went with a steakhouse theme so that it would be both new and exciting, but still familiar.
For all menus, quality is our biggest concern. So for the pop-up, we went with prime, dry-aged American Kobe beef. We also served scallops, salmon, and several exciting salads and appetizers. We ran the proteins at a fifty percent food cost and we didn’t any other dishes normally on our menu, other than filet mignon of course.
We also put a lot of work into making sure we could execute this pop-up at the highest level. We made prep lists and station responsibilities for each cook and chef on the line and we held several meetings and conducted a lengthy pre-shift before service. We could not miss a beat in the kitchen or in the front of house.
I’m happy to report that our first pop-up was an overwhelming success. We served 333 members in two nights—and everyone had a great time. The dining room was packed and you could feel the excitement in the air. Since we hosted the pop-up, we have received many compliments and requests to do another pop-up again and soon.
The culinary and front of the house teams rose to the occasion and really enjoyed doing something different. I can’t say enough about the great things about how well our team worked together to step out of the box and give our members something new and exciting.
We are in the midst of identifying our next pop-up concept. It could be a rustic Italian restaurant, Indian, Japanese with a sushi bar, southwestern, casual barbeque, or even a vegetarian concept. The sky is the limit. But I encourage you to challenge your team and do something similar. Your members will thank you and your team will enjoy the challenge of trying to open a new restaurant—even if it’s only for two days.