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Is Flavor Predictable?

Is flavor predictable?

Accomplishing the goal of great food is a long and complicated journey.

Most members believe it rests in the hands of their chef, but General Managers understand it is more complex than just one person.

Mr. Bill Marriott knew this, so he entered through the loading docks during his hotel visits. He famously stepped behind cook lines and into coolers while engaging with the culinary staff. His parents grew up in the restaurant business, which explained these actions.

Chef Paul Prudhomme taught us to see the flavor before tasting it. He described the ingredients’ colors, textures, and even the evaporation to improve the sauces’ viscosity.

His motto was to preserve the natural flavor of the ingredients. He was passionate about the ingredients, techniques, and the story behind each dish.

Even the famed American painter Jackson Pollock knew great art was more than God-given talent. He was fanatical about his brushes, paint, and canvas—no different from our culinary ingredients, tools, and techniques.

A chef must be meticulous in their pursuit of culinary details. Here are some habits that support Chef Prudhomme’s flavor-first mentality, defining the arduous journey to create the best results.

Staff: A disciplined staff is a great indicator that standards are known and energized. A team-centric feel defines team pride and joy in themselves and their actions. It predicts a culture where the ingredients are respected and the vision for each dish has been established.

A laser-focused team instills confidence that their expectations for their station are understood. Positive eye contact and an engaging nature indicate that the service mission is owned. While individualism is important, it should not replace a team-first philosophy. Culinary is the ultimate team sport, with countless hands touching every dish.

The kitchen is a professional space free of idle chatter. A strong chef should set a tone where business is conducted while socializing can be done in other employee-centric club spaces.

Communication: The atmosphere of defined kitchen conversations signals an understanding of an engaged leadership hierarchy. Today’s modern kitchen has moved away from the yelling of “yes chef” and is replaced by staff nods or verbal communication through electronic headpieces. Key Sous Chefs are placed at focal points for the final inspection. This ensures technical cooking application that all cooks deserve.

Through trust comes the transparency of uncovering defects in a blameless system. Examples of defect-free processes are found in the utilization of documented recipes. From Michelin Star to fast casual, no successful organization operates without a recipe bible. When it’s owned and energized in lineups, meetings, and digital communication, team unity and responsibility in taste occur.

Environments: Clean food flavors can’t be created in a dirty kitchen. Aside from the obvious need to eradicate bacteria, a clean kitchen supports systematic methodologies. Cooking involves detailed touches first learned in the cleaning responsibilities of the kitchen.

Many kitchens may appear visually clean yet lack organizational systems, highlighting product rotation challenges and predicting expired ingredients that could be found in finished dishes.

Quality lighting and air conditioning are often overlooked. Lighting changes are great motivators for cooks in their ability to view food presentations.

Organization: From purchasing to cooler to the line, there is a system for food. Follow the product to determine if respectful handling is done with integrity. A club can purchase top-class ingredients but lose its uniqueness without a structured system.

From day one, ingredients begin to deteriorate. A race against time requires sound systems to secure their peak characteristics for as long as possible. Expensive ingredients are the gentlest, requiring experienced culinary techniques from mentors. Proteins should never be fabricated by the inexperienced. Learning starts by observing, which turns into respect for the handling process.

Techniques: Universal flavor building has systems regardless of cuisine. Hot food hot and cold food cold is very basic. Refrigerated products, covers, flat pots, and pans are a simple start. Step onto any line, and you can immediately feel if systems of organization and care are in place.

Observe if the cooks respect the products, massaging the proteins when seasoning and moving the items with gentle finesse in a sauté pan. These are what people call “having a soft touch or feel.” A great cook knows each principle of cooking and visualizes how the ingredients will react in those techniques.

On the line, there must be a graceful dance of cooking preparations—a seamless organization movement with the staff in how they approach each task, minimizing unnecessary steps. Each process is thought out, predictable, and repeated with each dish.

Great food quality is built when all touchpoints come together. With Food and Beverage being one of the top value propositions in any club, every Executive Chef should want these challenges and enjoy the power of building great culinary flavors.

Club + Resort Chef – May 2024

Lawrence T. McFadden, CMC, ECM is a food and beverage training consultant and search executive with Kopplin Kuebler & Wallace, a consulting firm providing executive search, strategic planning and data analysis services to the private club and hospitality industries.

Is Flavor Predictable?2024-05-29T16:02:32+00:00


CMAA Partnership Renewal

Alexandria, VA – May, 2024 – KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE, a leading club industry recruiting and consulting firm, has renewed its partnership with the Club Management Association of America (CMAA) through December 2026. KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE (KKW) has been a long-time partner and a valued supporter of CMAA.

As a CMAA Executive Partner, KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE will continue to be the presenting sponsor of the Governance and Leadership Symposium that they helped to develop in 2016. To date, Principals Richard Kopplin, CMAA Fellow; Kurt D. Kuebler, CCM, CMAA Fellow; and Thomas B. Wallace III, CCM, CCE, ECM, have shared their expertise with more than 500 club management professionals and club board members through these in-person and virtual events, helping to create a better-educated club industry.

CMAA’s President & CEO Jeff Morgan, FASAE, CAE, explains “We are pleased to continue our partnership with KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE, and extend their expertise to CMAA members and their volunteer leadership through board education.”

“Dick Kopplin, Kurt Kuebler, and I are honored to continue our involvement and support of Club Management Association of America through our renewed partnership commitment. Much of our team has an invested history with the association and we are dedicated to advocating for CMAA’s continued success. The pillars of CMAA that support professionalism, education, and leadership align seamlessly with KK&W. We look forward to engaging with the membership and their team members, sharing our experiences in private club leadership, governance, and best practices. The coming years are sure to be exciting for CMAA and we are thankful to be a part of their mission,” shared KK&W Partner, Tom Wallace.

Further, KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE will support BMI International as an event sponsor along with a wide range of other educational resources available to the CMAA membership across a variety of platforms. Previous collaborations through the Let’s Talk Club Management podcast and Club Management magazine include:

• Putting The Human Behind The Resources [read more] • Evolving Workplaces [read more] • Secrets to Acing the Interview [launch podcast]

About CMAA

Founded in 1927, the Club Management Association of America (CMAA) is the largest professional association for managers of membership clubs with 7,800 members throughout the US and internationally. Our members contribute to the success of more than 2,600 country, golf, athletic, city, faculty, military, town, and yacht clubs. The objectives of the Association are to promote relationships between club management professionals and other similar professions; to encourage the education and advancement of members; and to provide the resources needed for efficient and successful club operations. Under the covenants of professionalism, education, leadership, and community, CMAA continues to extend its reach as the leader in the club management practice. CMAA is headquartered in Alexandria, VA, with 40 professional chapters and 40 student chapters and colonies. Learn more at cmaa.org.


People Focused & Quality Driven. When you work with KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE, you can expect an experience that will be centered around the well-being of their clients, the candidates they place, and the industry as a whole. Their process has been fine-tuned for 26 years and involves merging more than 500 years of combined expertise with a comprehensive understanding of stakeholders’ needs. They are an award-winning executive search and consulting firm and a trusted partner dedicated to the success of the organizations they work with. Executive search expertise includes: GM/COO, CEO, Assistant General Manager/Clubhouse Manager, Director of Food and Beverage, Executive Chef, Director of Golf/Head Golf Professional, Golf Course Superintendent/Director of Agronomy, Director of Tennis/Director of Racquets, Fitness & Wellness Director, Chief Financial Officer, Director of Finance, Controller, Human Resources Director, Membership and Marketing Director Searches, and Consulting Services for Private, Resort and Developer Owned Properties, Clubs and Communities as well as Senior Living Communities and Property Owners Associations. For more information, visit kkandw.com.

KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE Renews CMAA Partnership2024-05-22T15:57:20+00:00

Best Practices for Establishing a Modern-Day Performance Management System

Best Practices for Establishing a Modern-Day Performance Management System

Over time, while completing executive placements for private clubs and when reaching out to top-performing general managers, we have consistently been surprised to discover that in many scenarios there is a subjective process for performance evaluation or not one at all.

This is concerning as we often see a connection between managers who aren’t receiving feedback and managers who are being let go from their positions.

As we noted in Part I, “It’s YOUR Club … But It’s MY Life!” (BoardRoom magazine, January/February 2024), clear communication and alignment of initiatives are essential for a GM’s success.

Transparency is vital for a new GM and it is equally as important to maintain that transparency as time goes on. There should not be any blind spots for the club’s leader, and without regular feedback on performance or a system in place, there likely will be.

While some managers may be comfortable not having a specific and measurable review process, we see that top-performing clubs and their executives have formal annual goal-setting/feedback processes and meet twice annually to review these goals. These are reasons we believe managers should instigate the implementation of such practices:

  • With a formal system in place, there’s no denying that the review is fair, mutually agreed upon and measurable. The system also helps avoid challenges presented by board turnover.
  • Without a review, the GM doesn’t know the perceptions, priorities or preferences of others, and this creates blind spots. When the GM is made aware of blind spots, they can then work to communicate better or overcome these situations.
  • In the absence of measurable goals, there is the risk that an uneducated president or board could deny a portion of the GM’s bonus simply based on their opinion(s).
  • Accountability at every level is becoming mainstream in businesses today. It is only a matter of time until a board member or club president begins to question the process.
  • The best GMs in the business seek feedback and strive to constantly improve. Seeking feedback is proactive. Would the GM rather the board/executive committee/ club president design the review process, or would the GM like to lead that charge?
  • As feedback becomes more prominent with younger generations and in business practices, allowing feedback to flow through the entire organization will become increasingly important to club success.

We recommend the GM and club president/executive committee calendarize the review process so it isn’t forgotten about. At the beginning of the year, goals should be established together, then reviewed mid-year review and at end-of-year.

Managers and presidents must understand the importance of these meetings as they create synergy and avoid disconnects in club leadership. We believe these conversations should be kept to a group no larger than the executive committee, and the criteria should be determined and agreed upon by the GM, the club president and/or the executive committee.

While some clubs base a GM’s bonus 100 percent on financials or on beating the budget, we believe that is a mistake. We also have seen bonus potential of up to 50 percent of a GM’s annual salary and some with no bonus incentive. We recommend a bonus potential equivalent to 20 percent of the GM salary and based on measurable and mutually agreed upon goals.

The GM should have some input as to what he or she is being reviewed on and by whom. Those involved in the process should be a select group of objective people who know and understand the GM and the criteria based on agreed upon areas. The most common areas include:

  • Member satisfaction/Net promoter score – Must have surveying in place for one year
  • Employee satisfaction/Net promoter score – Must have surveying in place for one year
  • Financial management
  • Membership management – Net growth/Waitlist management
  • Human capital management
  • Capital management
  • Strategic leadership
  • Building maintenance/FFE management
  • Communications

We suggest integrating the five strategic pillars relevant to running a successful club into the bonus/review process and attaching key performance indicators to each of these areas to ensure clarity and measurability. For example:

  1. Financial sustainability (20 percent of bonus): Operating the club in a way that supports the club’s mission, maintains healthy membership levels and all operating needs as well as capital investment.
    1. KPIs to measure:
      1. Achieve club annual budget
      2. Ensure all club departments achieve their departmental budgets annually
      3. Achieve/maintain 1,500 total members by yearend.
  2. Effective leadership (20 percent of bonus): Leading the club through transparency, effective communication and adoption of best-in-class governance practices.
    1. KPIs to measure:
      1. Update and improve leadership onboarding to ensure a comprehensive approach, vital sharing of information and systems that will create successful outcomes
      2. Design and deploy ongoing leadership development processes to ensure key staff leaders are consistently educated, developed and invested in.
  3. Member engagement (20 percent): Cultivate deep engagement with the membership by ensuring frequent usage, meaningful relationships and emotional connection to create passionate ambassadors who embrace an ownership mindset.
    1. KPIs to measure:
      1. Achieve/maintain net promoter score of nine or higher
      2. Achieve/maintain previous year member usage numbers or higher.
  4. Human capital management/Operational excellence (20 percent): Building a well-trained, best-in-class, highly functioning team of professionals by actively attracting, retaining, developing and rewarding the club’s most valuable assets.
    1. KPIs to measure:
      1. Maintain/improve team member net promoter score of nine or higher
      2. Design and deploy standard operating procedures for all front-line positions to ensure club standards are consistently met in all areas of the club
      3. Establish an effective retention plan to reduce employee turnover to 5 percent or less.
  5. Capital planning (20 percent): Capital asset planning includes equipment, machinery, amenities, buildings, infrastructure and land needs being maintained, reinvested in and replaced in appropriate time frames to ensure facilities are fresh, relevant, functional and appealing.
    1. Create a capital reserve study to ensure all club assets are documented
    2. Execute kitchen renovation on time and on budget
    3. Effectively enhance the employee break room based on responses from employee surveys while completing on time and on budget.

The “weight” of each item and the “weight” of each KPI should change based on the importance of each to the club and its overall goals. How heavily each is rated should be mutually agreed upon by all parties. In addition, board discretion should be used when necessary. Taking the COVID19 pandemic as an example, boards should have the ability to alter, modify or amend the payout plan in the best interest of the club in the event of unforeseen events impacting the operation.

Overall, when creating a review/bonus plan, the following questions should be answered with yes:

  • Do the goals support our strategic plan?
  • Are the goals SMART? Can we define what success looks like?
  • Does the plan reward team and individual performance – not one at the expense of the other?
  • Upon accomplishment of these goals, will our club be materially closer to our vision?

Lastly, a case can be made for incorporating 360-degree performance reviews into a club’s performance management system. When considering implementing 360-degree performance reviews, we recommend participants are mutually agreed upon and that all department heads, some board members, some committee members and some members at large are included in the process. This doesn’t necessarily need to be an annual process, as a bi-annual 360-degree performance review is sufficient.

Clear feedback, as a dynamic exchange, benefits the GM/COO, the team, the board and the club as a whole. When GM/COOs actively seek feedback and participate in goal-setting, it demonstrates their commitment to personal and professional growth.

This commitment significantly contributes to the club’s success and fosters a positive, forward-thinking organizational culture. Such a culture not only meets the expectations of younger managers but also positions the club as an attractive workplace for emerging leaders eager to contribute to their own growth and the club’s overall success.

BoardRoom – March/April 2024

Best Practices for Establishing a Modern-Day Performance Management System2024-05-29T16:19:28+00:00

Can Private Clubs Realistically Hire a Female Chef?

Can Private Clubs Realistically Hire a Female Chef?

Selecting an Executive Chef involves more than assessing culinary skills; it also requires confronting the stark gender imbalance in the pool of applicants and the broader implications of diversity within the industry. Panel interviews are complex. The search committees who run them generally represent a cross-section of the membership. Each is vested in selecting their next culinary leader and they must navigate complex issues including gender dynamics within traditionally male-dominated spaces.

The focus on “diversity” prompts a deeper dialogue: Is the interest in diversity genuine or superficial? Many clubs still maintain male-only dining areas, complicating the inclusion of female chefs by restricting roles based on gender. Despite a broader diversification of the food industry, many club kitchens remain led by American white males, indicating a slow demographic shift from the previously European-dominated chef roles. This change points to a journey toward gender balance still fraught with challenges.

Historically, Europeans dominated culinary leadership roles until the late ’60s. Then, in the mid-’70s, the American Culinary Federation transformed cooking from a trade to a profession. The ’80s saw a surge in culinary education, producing technically proficient cooks, many of whom trained in Europe and returned to assume leadership positions. Today, however, despite high female enrollment in culinary schools, the presence of female chefs in leadership roles is disproportionately low.

The data suggests that the pool of qualified women should match today’s leadership opportunities, yet private clubs often obscure talent assessments, focusing instead on finding the right culinary “fit” among members. Questions like “Would a male-dominated kitchen follow female leadership?” highlight sociological barriers more than capability, reflecting a bias that still pervades the industry.

Another barrier for women includes succession planning practices at historically male dominated hotel kitchens, where the corporate chef often appointed known associates, traditionally men, to lead newly emerging hotels. Only as the company’s diversity organically grew did new faces begin to emerge in top culinary positions. Still, women were lacking opportunities in this male dominated movement.

As Marriott focused on diversifying their executive committees, the demands of their clientele evolved accordingly, influenced by families and female business leaders.

So, if culinary institutions are filled with female students, where are they in the industry today? The same schools report that more than half of the graduates leave the field within five years. Combined with limited opportunities in private clubs, this leaves only a small portion of the market available to them. Despite these challenges, the importance of discussing diversity remains.

Chef Penelope Wong exemplifies such leadership. As a dynamic chef (or “shef” as she likes to be called), she shattered stereotypes and ascended in her role at Glenmoor Country Club (Englewood, Colo.), serving as an inspiration to many cooks. (See Why I’m Leaving and What I Hope to Leave Behind.)

Her story raises an important question: Would she have even been considered for an interview if she were competing against male counterparts? Her prior role within the club earned her the trust and respect of the members, but this raises concerns about whether a woman without such an internal track record would be seen as a viable candidate in traditional clubs.

While we may not have definitive answers to these questions, it’s clear that when clubs are hiring an executive chef, assessing culinary talent is only part of the equation. Other factors, often intangible, complicate the hiring process. I often say, “I got every job I interviewed for before interviewing in private clubs,” a reflection I share with many skilled candidates who are ideal on paper for one position but not the next.

The education of candidates is increasingly important, with culinary school success underscoring the value of degrees and certifications. Some clubs worry about over-qualification, but as I reassure them, “any certification or degree demonstrates lifelong learning,” with some clubs offering financial incentives for these achievements.

Numerous factors can complicate the primary goal of enhancing a club’s cuisine. This objective drives us to seek candidates from a variety of industry backgrounds and educational sectors, all in the pursuit of professional advancement, which remains the ultimate goal of each search.

Upon initial review, candidate resumes might appear misaligned with the club’s past direction. These professionals’ careers might seem too innovative for the club’s established dining habits, a topic that should be central in hiring discussions. These emotional deliberations often lead clubs to identify the “safest candidate,” a decision that may overshadow considerations of gender, as committees prioritize maintaining a certain image in the eyes of their members.

During these extensive discussions, it’s commonly stated, “Our Executive Chef is one of the most important decisions for our club.” As a former chef, it’s encouraging to see this role garner such respect today.

In conclusion, while the path for female Executive Chefs is not entirely clear, initiating progressive conversations within hiring committees is essential. Change is slow but invariably leads to progress, potentially paving the way for greater prominence of female chefs in the future.

Club + Resort Chef – April 2024

Lawrence T. McFadden, CMC, ECM is a food and beverage training consultant and search executive with Kopplin Kuebler & Wallace, a consulting firm providing executive search, strategic planning and data analysis services to the private club and hospitality industries.

Can Private Clubs Realistically Hire a Female Chef?2024-05-01T18:15:15+00:00

Membership Privileges? WHAT THE #@*$%& ARE YOU THINKING???

Membership Privileges? WHAT THE #@*$%& ARE YOU THINKING???

In the course of working with club boards and search committees to identify and retain professional executive leadership (GM/CEs) for their clubs, our firm typically conducts a market compensation analysis and assists in the final agreement negotiations with the successful candidate.

I’m continually amazed at how many seemingly competent managers expect membership privileges for themselves and often their families as part of the “normal” benefits provided to them. Where does this entitlement expectation come from?

Some years ago at a club I was hired to manage, one of the first operational standards defined for management and the employee team stated in no uncertain terms that “no employee of the club, including management, will be allowed to consume alcohol on club property.”

Our golf professional staff had been in the habit of playing golf with the members and then having drinks and sometimes engaging in card games after they finished playing golf.

There could be no good end to this story, so I explained to the head pro and his assistants that they should continue their golf games with the members but there would no longer be any consumption of alcohol or participation at the gin table. This standard was endorsed by the club’s board, as board members had realized that some golf employees were acting more like members than employees.

A recently terminated general manager who contacted us had lost the board’s trust not because of his lack of ability but because of the activities of his wife and kids at the pool.

It seems that with his family’s daily use of the pool, his spouse had earned a reputation among employees as “the most difficult member.” Additionally, his two children were entered in all of the swim club events and expected to travel to events at other clubs as though they were children of club members. There could be no good end to that story and there wasn’t. 

Sometimes a club president will suggest to the general manager that they should participate in the golf and social events at the club with their spouse. The subliminal message to the manager: “You are one of us.” Well, the reality is the manager/spouse is not “one of them.” Likewise, there can be no good end to this story.

In one instance, the club general manager and his wife won a couples golf event and then the problems really began.

A perspicacious general manager will politely decline invitations to participate regularly in club events and instead play golf on Monday or whatever day the club allows employees to play.

That doesn’t mean that, on occasion, the general manager should not participate if asked to play with a group of members or at the annual board tournament. However, there should never be a perception that “our manager is on the course again today” or, even worse, “they’re playing with their regular group of members on Saturday morning.”

There can be no possible good emanating from general managers and their families becoming active participants and users of club facilities. Not only do employee/member lines become blurred for the general managers but there can also be frustration at the staff level as employees struggle with the “are they employees or members” issue.

This entitlement thinking can undermine any of the positives that a quality general manager may be providing the club because of how emotionally charged this issue can become. It provides fodder for the “bridge ladies” and is the hot topic at the “round table” in the club grille.

Successful club general managers have set clear standards for themselves and their employees when it comes to socializing at the club. These standards recognize that while general managers may, on occasion, enjoy club privileges, they are not entitled to the same membership privileges purchased by their employers, the members.

If they don’t understand that distinction, there can be no good ending to this story.

This much I know for sure.


“This Much I Know for Sure” is a regular feature in BoardRoom magazine beginning Fall 2022. Dick will share some of his reflections based on his 50-plus years of working in the private club business.

Membership Privileges? WHAT THE #@*$%& ARE YOU THINKING???2024-04-26T19:12:15+00:00

Intangible Professional Development

Intangible Professional Development

When it comes to professional development, one of the most important aspects often gets overlooked: relationship-led development. Most professionals consider professional development to be a course where you gain a certification or achieve a financial milestone. However, the ‘human’ qualities that make you not just good, but exceptional, are often left behind as success is harder to measure. Here, we will discuss why relationship-led development, such as Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Mentoring, Communication, Integrity, and Leadership are so vital in shaping who you are professionally.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is like your secret weapon in navigating the workplace. It’s about understanding yourself, managing your emotions, and connecting with others. Did you know that a whopping 85% of professional success comes down to how well you handle people? EQ isn’t just about being nice; it’s about being savvy in the way you interact, adapt, and build relationships.

Mentoring is like having a trusted guide on your career journey. It’s someone who’s been there, done that, and is willing to share their wisdom with you. A mentor doesn’t just teach you skills; they help you grow personally, gain confidence, and expand your professional network. It’s a relationship that’s all about learning and support.

Communication is the heartbeat of any workplace. It’s not just about what you say, but how you say it and how well you listen. Good communication fosters understanding, resolves conflicts, and fuels creativity. When you can express yourself clearly and connect with others authentically, you’re unstoppable. Adapting your communication style to other personality types helps foster a health working culture.

Integrity is your moral compass in the professional world. It’s about doing the right thing, even when no one’s watching. Integrity builds trust and respect, which are essential for lasting relationships and success. When you stand by your principles and act with honesty and transparency, you earn credibility that money can’t buy.

Leadership isn’t just for those with executive titles; it’s for anyone who wants to make a difference. True leadership is about inspiring others, being accountable, and bringing out the best in people. It’s not about ordering others around; it’s about empowering them to shine and achieve their potential.

In a nutshell, while technical skills are crucial, it’s the intangible qualities that truly set you apart. So, nurture your Emotional Intelligence, seek out mentors, hone your communication skills, uphold your integrity, and lead with purpose. These are the qualities that will not only make you successful but also fulfilled in your professional journey.

Michael Herd is an International Consultant and Search Executive with KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE, a consulting firm providing executive search, strategic planning and data analysis services to the private club and hospitality industries. Michael can be reached at +44 (0) 7903 035312 and at michael@kkandw.com.

Intangible Professional Development2024-04-23T19:22:59+00:00
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