What’s the best part of going out? For many, it’s someone else cooking a delicious meal. For others, it could be the server who always remembers that you love three brandied cherries in your Manhattan. Or how about the chef who knows exactly what you mean when you order your steak to be cooked on the “rare side of medium rare?”
In the COVID-19 environment, clubs continue to bring the festive spirit of dining to their members, all while maintaining the highest safety standards. Food and beverage service looks different now. But even from a social distance, clubs are keeping up the community connection. Distance does, in fact, make the heart grow fonder.
▪ PATIO PLEASURES
As members and guests see outdoor dining as a safer alternative to indoors, many clubs are making it a main attraction. With acreage available, clubs and resorts are repurposing available space into alfresco dining environments. Some hope these new venues might even continue service for the foreseeable future.
“Club leadership at the property level is making a serious effort to listen to members and guests right now,” said Ed Doyle, President of RealFood, a hospitality strategy and design firm and division of Troon. “We’ve always done this, but it’s especially important today. At Troon, we help clubs maintain their individual identities, to be the best versions of themselves. Even as we are able to reopen, we support clubs in finding the best way to do it, the way that their patrons will be most responsive to.”
At Ocean Edge Club, the private member club of the Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club in Brewster, Mass., members typically enjoy many dining options, including Ocean Terrace. An outdoor venue featuring seasonal and regional dishes, small plates, and a robust bar menu, the Terrace recently reopened in accordance with health and safety guidelines, welcoming back patrons to an elevated dining experience featuring seasonally inspired coastal cuisine, creative cocktails and dramatic views of Cape Cod Bay.
▪ KITCHEN COLLABORATIONS
Letting members in on the secret of their “special sauce” that makes their brick oven pizza so tasty, the Carl M. Freeman property, Bear Trap Dunes, offers meal kits to make these popular pies at home. In addition, the Troon-managed property in Ocean View, Del., has been keeping member spirits high with irresistible daily specials. From steamed Maine whole lobster to comforting Yankee pot roast, the culinary team keeps curbside service elevated and interesting.
El Macero Country Club, located in the heart of Sacramento Valley, Calif., is focused on family, friendship, and fun for everyone. As it has at many country clubs, carryout service has gained popularity in the last few months, with the culinary team’s take on Taco Tuesday being a fiesta of carne asada, shrimp, and chicken tacos. The at-home kit, for any size party, includes all the flair and pairs best with a pitcher of the club’s frosty margarita concoction. Limited-quantity specials create excitement and anticipation at El Macero, and culinary creativity abounds with dishes like grilled Szechuan chicken thighs served with jasmine citrus rice and grilled sweet peppers.
Many clubs are sharing their bartending secrets, too, with mixology demonstrations of “quarantini” cocktails, and packaged libation mixes (just add the alcohol) for at-home enjoyment.
▪ MOVABLE FEAST
Some clubs are turning to new vehicles, quite literally, to cater to members. Bear Trap Dunes recently hosted a drive-through barbecue event with food stations and live music. With every passenger seat occupied, cars stopped at each cookout station, and staff served up carryout courses of traditional warm-weather fare. Taking advantage of the fresh air, sunshine, and stunning clubhouse setting, the parking lot transformed into a social hub for the afternoon. Members waved to their neighbors and enjoyed their piled-high plates and iced cold beer to the familiar tunes of a local backyard band.
▪ COMMUNITY, CAMARADERIE , TRUST
“For decades, clubs have been responding to member and guest desires … that’s what hospitality is all about,” said Doyle, “Now, there is a new set of variables, and clubs are still finding ways to customize dining experiences and exceed member expectations.”
Doyle explains that Troon associates at clubs are innovating at record rates. Food service trends that were already underway, albeit at a moderate pace, have been propelled into quick adoption in the COVID-19 environment, especially in the club setting.
“Members are supporting their clubs in an impressive way,” Doyle said. “We are seeing member satisfaction rates rise, and with fewer amenities available. For the industry, it’s showing that membership is about more than that; it’s about community, camaraderie, and trust.”
As states lift stay-at-home orders and indoor dining rooms begin to open again in certain areas, clubs are remaining relevant and nourishing human connections amongst members and guests. It’s happening through golf, but especially over food and drink, and in a whole new (and exciting) way.
In addition, many clubs are turning to their once-quiet social media platforms. With daily chef-driven menu specials offered regularly through social media, the table talk of “Weren’t those crab cakes amazing?” continues, just from a new perspective. And member engagement with club communications is on the upswing. From text messages to live video posts, members are tuning in regularly for daily culinary offerings and news about themed takeout nights and special socially distanced events.