Club Managers Face Change On The Plate

Every season has an opening day. For many in the Northeast it is presumed that Memorial day is the start of the summer season.

In reality any club manager will tell you that the club season begins in earnest on Mother’s Day. It’s the first real big day. Remember with restaurants it’s the one day of the year where nobody cooks at home.

Think of it as pretty and shining and spanking new. Most clubs have already finished with the painting and the replacement of curtains. Now it’s time to get ready for the height of a club’s food and beverage season.  The Club Managers Show comes at a good time to shop for new culinary ideas.

If you are not in the club business, it’s probably easy to assume that a manager looks at their club from two perspectives: outside venues including poolside, halfway houses and then the dining areas inside. But the reality is, a successful club manager is looking at which venues can generate the most  function revenue with weddings, bar mitzvahs and special events.

Typically those revenues are maximized in the dining rooms with catered events from non-members. When you do the math, obviously a room full for a function is going to generate far more revenue than a weekday night with your members only eating dinner.

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So it makes sense that a club manager shopping for their function business, needs to create a look and style that is condusive to a more upscale presentation. Think of it this way,  wouldn’t you serve a $20 glass of wine in a nicer glass than a  $5.00 glass.

What we have found is that clubs today are competing with local restaurants. So with a chef who may very well have been trained at the CIA, the quality of the food rather than the logo on the plate has  become a key ingredient to the club’s reputation both with its membership and in competing for its share of outside function revenue.

In the 50’s and 60’s, a club’s tabletop featured color band encased in gold with a verge line and a service plate. The food was typically what I call a third, a third and a third with a chicken leg, quarter mash potatoes and peas each taking the same space on the plate.  It was very traditional and it emphasized the clubbiness of the club, rather than the food.

Today a typical plating at a club looks like a restaurant’s plate of food.  They are competing in the dining room for the dollars that the membership is going to spend in local restaurants. A club today needs to think about what you are serving rather than the name on the plate.

Many of us in the northeast have become foodies. Today’s club members want an experience like they would have in a restaurant. So part of that is a more white plated look that has replaced much of the logoed table top.  We are seeing many pretty options. They feature different heights. The 12″x 20″ vessel has been replaced by a smaller 10” x 10”. No more big thick pans. Today it’s all about the menu with smaller batches that looks prettier and fresher.

Buffets have always been a big part of the club season.  Not as many as there used to be so they need to look nicer with real focus from members on temperature and cleanliness. With our industry focused on HACCP with hot and cold, you can’t just put warm things out on platters. Old chafers just don’t cut it. Today it’s all about the vessels.  We’ve found solutions for our customers from American Metalcraft’s Vidacasa which features matching hot and cold eutectic plates. Other bright spots are Oneida’s Eurobuffet which mixes wood and metal and Steelite, both of which also have some really nice induction chafers to mix in.

Eutectic works more effectively for cold so many clubs are still focused on using induction for hot. In many cases however with older facilities, the wiring infrastructure isn’t in place in many clubs to handle the electric needed for it.

We like the approach of dropping an induction stove into a counter or what’s really cool is to put the induction underneath and then put Smart Stone on the top. These stones are cut from a living rock of granite, stone and /or quartz and then combined with a polymer which in some cases even has crushed beer bottles in it to create an amazing surface. There’s a win-win for many of our clubs with it because by using the stone made from recycled product they are able to be green and sustainable.

So in many cases, we are turning to a great cart maker like Forbes and having them create a cart in which we can drop the induction vessels underneath with a stone on the top.

Please let someone who has experience help you with this. Not every chafer works with every range. So our suggestion is to find a resource (yes-you can call us) that has been through many projects to find the right mix of induction and stones.

We’ve done and have built a base of knowledge by watching stones crack.  You simply can’t get this expertise from a web site.

Liz Weiss
Liz Weiss is the President and co-owner of Armonk, NY based H. Weiss Co., a division of BHS Foodservice Solutions. She is known nationally as one of the nation’s foremost authorities on tabletop design. The Michigan State graduate is also actively involved with WPO-Women’s Presidents Organization. Comments may be sent to