I heard on the radio the other day, that we were about to have the first day with 10 hours of light for the new year. That can only mean one thing: that sooner or later the severe cold of this winter is going to give way to some warm weather and with it the launch of a new club season.
In fact, we are finalizing our plans for the annual Club Managers Show in Westchester. That got me thinking about lessons learned from last year and some thoughts on trends that we are seeing that could be of value to the club management community as you get ready for the upcoming season.
Among the carry-over topic from last year is redefining who you are competing with. Is it with the restaurant in town or in Manhattan or is it with yourself? As we work with our clients, through all segments of the industry, it’s clear that although everyone needs to worry about the competition, the real key is to understand what you can do better than anybody else and work to your strengths.
In serving the club business as as we have for years, I see those strengths as traditional vehicles including friends coming to the club for an elegant Friday night dinner or even a casual midweek bite to eat.
I also think that every one of those opportunities serves as a calling card for the marketing of your banquet and catering facilities for the upcoming season.
We have a fairly simple strategy to follow inter terms of how to allocate your table top inventory as you get ready for a new season. Most country clubs have more than one dining room to serve members and their guests. So why not allow the “old china” to go to the banquet and catering dining areas and purchase new tabletop items each for the members’ main dining room.
Our first step in many cases is to reassess the use of each space as we enter a new season. Typically we see the use of the main dining room for those elegant dinners or small business gatherings.
We then see the halfway house, pool, bar for lunch and causal dinners. Of course the Banquet facilities and patio are then earmarked for catering. We like to work with clubs to help them find complimenting service from space to space so that they can properly identify the amount they need to purchase going into a new season. For instance, a club can create efficiency with the purchase of 9” Salad plates that can be used in the dining room as a luncheon plate.
We also notice that the clubs that get it right, are the ones in which the club manager and chef have a consistent view of what they are trying to present. We notice when we work these teams that they arrive at a shared vision of exactly who their end user/member customer is.
If that “customer” is the club member, they may want to have a crested item like a logo’ed dinner plate. If they are membership driven, they want to start with the menu type that the members are looking for, develop the menu, then look for tabletop that serves that. Best in class club’s focus on the course being served as they decide on service for their a la carte programs rather than the flexibility of the tabletop inventory that is so valuable for catering.
We also see clubs that succeed with tabletop for catering focusing on utilizing a recognizable manufacturer. For instance a brand like Lenox may be a best bet- placating the “mother of the Bride/ bar Mitzvah boy” crowd. In this case- simpler the better as not to interfere with event décor.
As we work with our customers, we are also seeing a number of geographic trends. Downstate, the trend is to more light, simpler, farm-to-table fare. There are elegant and smaller portion sizes served on smaller plates and in many cases with a focus on sharing. We are seeing tabletop that has a handmade feel, with organic shapes especially in many cases where entrées are being served in bowls.
Upstate, there is still a trend to larger simple white plates. But the fashion of tabletop is finding its way to the North Country. We see many of our chefs from Metro NYC looking for a better quality of family life and better ingredients and moving North. They then take that flair for fashion to their new outposts.
The summer club season is also defined by beverage and cocktail menus and the changes that come each year. The most interesting trends are on the Mixology front with Infusions, bitters, hot sauces, use of herbs, frozen fruit as garnishes. Based on that, we see savory and healthy on the horizon rather than sweet. Our vision for this summer is lots of frozen non-alcoholic drinks using herbal teas and herb garnishes. We are also convinced that Summer ‘18 will mark the return of elegant cocktails in sexy coupe glasses that we have not used in years. These glasses feature etching as well as cut and pressed rocks glasses.
Local will also remain a focus whether it is wine, beer, liquor.We are hearing from our customers that it is nice to support local business, but when they are good, really good, it’s even better. Sixpoint Brewery, Hudson Whiskey, Finger Lakes and Hudson Valley wine are all really good.
At BHS, we have a team of sales professionals who are knowledgeable with their territories, and are also supported by tabletop specialists. Our goal is to help clients find and suggest appropriate settings for everywhere and to lend our years of experience in working with the club professional to help you find the right look.
Several of our staff members are chefs and have tremendous insight into food, trends, preparation etc. We understand that Club dining is an “animal onto themselves”. The H. Weiss team has always been in tune with this and brings this expertise to the BHS team, happily. Not only for tabletop, but for the equipment and disposable solutions.