Article contributed by Karen DiPeri, President, HMG+
I sat down with General Manager Kyleigh Zengen of The Greens at Copake Country Club to find out how the pandemic has impacted their restaurant and catering business. The below is an excerpt of our discussion.
We are in the early phases of reopening, what positive and challenging behaviors have you noticed with guests that come to your venue?
The most positive theme is how excited and appreciative they are that we remained opened throughout the pandemic. Now they are really happy to be out and about! The most challenging thing, however, is that not everyone is aware of the expectations, especially wearing a mask in public spaces. We were under the impression that everyone was knowledgeable about the requirements. In the first couple of days of our reopening for outdoor dining at The Greens, we began seeing that many people were not aware of what was expected of them. It became quickly apparent to us that we needed to remind customers that wearing masks was a requirement. Signage became crucial to delivering that messaging, and it helped a lot.
Now that things seem more relaxed, its posing challenges with enforcing wearing masks. Our main goal is comfort for our diners. There is a huge disparity between those who are literally just coming out of quarantine and dining out for the first time and those who maybe are not taking the social distancing and mask wearing seriously.
Again, ensuring everyone’s comfort level is the high priority. So, it is a tug between asking those who aren’t wearing masks to help us make those others feel comfortable.
What has been the key to your lockdown recovery strategy for your venue?
The transition to a takeout model. We thought long and hard about how to deliver a very consistent product that would mirror our pre-covid offerings. We wanted to offer as much of our favorite menu items as we could logistically, but in a take-out model. Even while seeing other establishments take on trendy approaches, we felt our loyal patrons love our season farm-to-table cuisine and wanted to keep delivering that to them.
Let’s talk about staffing!
Staffing has been such an essential component to our successful reopening.
From the beginning, our key staff members were brought into the conversation, where we discussed a myriad of options, from the menu to the execution. We talked about navigating the new normal and the new systems that had to be implemented. This collaboration was essential to a smooth reopening strategy.
Our team embraced having to do multiple functions and change roles and be completely flexible with the ever-changing scenarios. Having the right people on staff is critical!
What systems do you have in place if we enter a second wave of a stay at home order?
As a special event venue, we are accustomed to booking events years in advance. Special occasions like Weddings, golf tournaments, fundraisers, and annual events all need long lead times to plan. Now that is all changed. Hosts are reluctant to book in advance, not knowing what the future will hold.
So, should a second wave come, and we are forced to adjust, we’ll be much better prepared. We are working with the mindset of “one day at a time.”
What kinds of events do you anticipate hosting first? What are the “safest” events to host?
Since we are located on a golf course with over 160 acres, we have the blessing of being able to social distance. We are looking forward to bringing back live music with social distanced seating and continue to provide our takeout menu for picnic style dining.
Traditional golf tournaments are off the table for right now. However, small-scale shotgun style tournaments with a boxed lunches and to-go meals could be feasible.
So how many golfers pre-pandemic was the capacity?
Our tournaments can host 144 golfers with a seated or buffet dinner and cocktails. Now, only 50 golfers with a boxed lunch or to-go meal.
What about the annual fundraisers?
Event hosts are faced with the challenge of soliciting funds during a pandemic, and therefore are holding off completely.
Can you put up a tent for additional dining room space?
We have pondered that, but we are so committed to maintaining our consistent dining experience, that the quality and the authentic service would be diminished, so for now we’ve decided against that for our ala carte dining.
What are some issues you might have experienced during this time with your suppliers?
Most of our shortages we experienced initially were cleaning supplies. Like everyone else we could not get hand sanitizer, and even to-go bags. All that has been rectified now.
We did experience huge fluctuations in some items. Ironically, chicken wings dropped in pricing because bars were closed, and they weren’t selling as much. There was a disparity between distributors being flexible with minimums. 100% of our local purveyors were super supportive and flexible. Our menu at The Greens is very seasonal, so we are fortunate that because we’re in the spring so much can be sourced locally from beef and pork to salad greens, herbs and vegetables, beer.
A few years ago, we built an outdoor BBQ & walk up beverage station for our golfers. It was an underutilized addition until recently. Now, golfers don’t have to come inside for drinks and food afterwards, they can walk right up to the outdoor grill and grab a burger and a beer.
How has this experience helped you grow as a restaurant owner/event space/business owner?
Changing our perspective on how far out we can plan has brought management closer together. The conversations we needed to have were sometimes painful, but we were forced to face the new reality. We have a deeper appreciation for each other and for our loyal customers who continue to come out to support us has been our silver lining.
To learn more about the The Greens at Copake Country Club, visit their website
Copake Country Club — public golf, private quality, since 1921. Our stunningly designed 18-hole golf course is enveloped by the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains, the shores of Copake Lake, and the unparalleled vistas of Columbia County in upstate New York.
The Greens — a restaurant and bar serving club fare and finely prepared American cuisine, we’ve got something for everyone. Whether it’s a quick bite after your round or a special occasion meal with all your friends and family, The Greens invite you to join us any time of year for a spectacular dining experience. Cozy up to our 360 degree fireplace in the winter or snag a table on the deck in summer, with friendly familiar service we’re sure to become your new favorite dining destination.
Karen DiPeri is the President of HMG+, the tri-state’s leading hospitality staffing service, focused on specialized hospitality staffing and recruiting. HMG+ find their success in their passion for hospitality, their commitment to excellence in service, and in the power of people. HMG+ believe the right people—carefully chosen, rigorously vetted, properly trained, impeccably presented, and led by a team that’s always ready and on-demand—have the ability to transform any hospitality experience. While they are industry experts with their history spanning over two decades, it’s time to hone the art of change for the new future. HMG+ looks forward to being 100% ServSafe certified, expertly trained in safety and sanitation, and technologically forward to best fit all evolving needs. Above all else, HMG+ is here for you to make your hospitality experience exceptional. Learn more at