Dining at private clubs will not be the same for a long time. It will be normal, someday. But for now, it will be radically different.
In the near term, we should be prepared to continue take-out only at private clubs and operate public courses like a snack bar or convenience store with prepackaged food and drinks.
Once the restrictions are eased or lifted, the good news is private clubs members will dine at their clubs before they go back to restaurants. They will trust who they know, prefer to dine with members of their own tribe, and will see their club as a safer place than public restaurants, many of which won’t reopen. Clubs will be a safe haven, and we should take advantage of this.
In order to earn their trust, and comply with the new laws, we believe food and beverage operations for the foreseeable future will have the following elements:
• They will serve less people. Managers will have to space tables further apart, reducing capacity, perhaps up to 50%, yet making the club safe in the process.
• We may have to use thermal scanning on our members before they are allowed in the dining room or bar. This soon may become a nationwide best practice anyway. We may even actually test them for the virus once the technology to do this becomes available.
• Bringing guests will not be looked on favorably by other members, but family members will.
• Dining will be by reservations only in order to control the number and flow of patrons.
• No buffets. Self-service won’t be an option for a while. Seated dining will be the only alternative with members spaced out appropriately, staff wearing protective gear, and with sanitation available.
• Dining outside as much as possible when weather permits.
• Kitchens may have to be reconfigured to space staff further away from each other. Kitchen schedules and prep may have to be staggered to realize the same result.
• All kitchen staff will have PPE: masks, gloves, and in some cases shields. We should be prepared to allow members to walk through the kitchen or view videos of how food preparation is done for their comfort.
• Disposable Menus will be limited in order to make kitchen operations simpler, maintain social distancing, and operate will less staff.
• Special events and weddings will be few and far between. Large groups close together will still be viewed as unsafe – it may be quite a while before they aren’t.
• Themed parties and dinners just for the members will be very popular. People still want variety, and with restaurants closed or hobbled, the door is open for clubs to fill this gap.
Clubs are notorious for resisting change. Legacy thinking has been one of their biggest liabilities. Now, the gloves are off, not on, and innovation and new thinking will prevail.
The principals of Bobby Jones Links own the company - we are not driven by investor expectations and pressures. Our balance sheet is strong.
As a result, we don’t leverage our operational leadership across too many clubs. And unlike many companies in our business, we don’t require long term management agreements with large breakup fees. If you like what we do, you’ll keep us. For more than two decades our clients have renewed our management services more than any other company.