Food & Beverage

Focus on the Fundamentals to Improve Your Food & Beverage Operations


It is the most common complaint I hear working with private club board members. “We need to improve the food and beverage service at our club.”

Notice I did not say the “profitability,” although that benefit is sometimes inherent in well-managed club dining facilities.

How can you improve the food and beverage operations at your club? The answer is easier than you might think and begins with the fundamentals.

A few years ago, a national survey of restaurant patrons revealed the three primary reasons customers returned regularly to their favorite restaurant. The results will probably surprise you, but if you consider your dining out experiences, I think your habits will corroborate the data.

Private clubs can certainly find good applications from the survey results. These three fundamental findings should be the basis for every good private club’s food and beverage operations:

A warm greeting. The number one reason people cited for returning to a particular restaurant was a warm greeting upon arrival. This greeting is not the standard “canned approach” from a well-intentioned but robotic host or hostess but a sincere and warm greeting, usually by a senior manager or owner of the establishment.

Additionally, the greeter usually knows the party’s name and will be perspicacious enough to recognize if the regular patron has guests accompanying them. Can we replicate this in the private club business? Absolutely. In spades.

Since most clubs request reservations, the greeter and seater should know not only the members’ names but also if they have guests. What an opportunity to make an impression upon the member with a very warm and engaging greeting which includes the use of the members name; and if done in front of guests…wow!

A fond farewell. The second reason people gave for supporting their favorite restaurant was knowing that their business was appreciated. This is accomplished while the patron is leaving the restaurant and the greeter, manager or owner thanks the customer for visiting the restaurant and expresses the desire to see them again.

This is not the usual “goodbye now” that most of us experience (if we are lucky and catch the hostess on a good day) in the chain restaurants as we fumble for a toothpick and mint. The best restaurateurs take a few minutes while their patrons are leaving to ensure that their experience was enjoyable and sincerely extend the invitation to visit again when their special table will be awaiting them.

Clean restrooms and good food. There was a tie for third in the survey. Customers were adamant about dining in “clean facilities,” and their primary way of evaluating the “housekeeping” in a restaurant is usually a result of a visit to the restroom.

My rule of thumb when frequenting fast-food restaurants during my travels is to walk into the men’s room before I order food. I know that the same person who cleans the restrooms also cleans the kitchen and, more importantly, the “cleanliness philosophy” of the manager who oversees that restaurant is evident in the restroom.

Good food tied for third with clean restrooms. Surprised? Not me. I like good food, and I tend to go to restaurants where I know the quality will be consistent. But I will avoid the establishments whose rankings in our local paper don’t earn an “A” ranking from the city health department.

In the private club environment, consistency and quality will provide a strong magnet to attract members to your club. If you combine consistently good food with the top three fundamentals of a warm welcome, a fond farewell and clean facilities, you can’t help but increase the use of your club dining rooms. 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.

Focus on the Fundamentals to Improve Your Food & Beverage Operations2024-06-04T20:39:43+00:00

Helping F&B Gain Favor

Helping F&B Gain Favor

One constant factor contributing to the disconnect between members wanting their club to be a favorite place for dining and actually considering it as such is how food and beverage professionals are always challenged to be more creative while keeping club traditions. Popular trends for club members are usually fads or movements that they see or hear about first from outside influencers and that then prompt their interest in new dining-related habits.

To help close the gap and help clubs gain more culinary favor with their members, here are some emerging popular global movements that should be watched to see if they find their way to club menus:

  • Sharing appetizers, or even full plates, has become a way of life and shows no signs of slowing.
  • SMART technology. Embracing technology continues and adds value in the areas of convenience of the service.
  • Eco-friendly packaging. This is important as environmental awareness is at the top of members’ minds.
  • Individual portions. From airports to grab-and-gos, members are overwhelmed with individual packaging and branded products. As the variety of fast-casual food offerings continues to expand, they are still seen as luxury items that can command a higher price.
  • Non-alcoholic products/trends. Alcohol will continue to play a major role in the food-and-beverage experience, but more and more consumers will ask for alcohol-free experiences.
  • Staff value-adds. The reality is that both employees and members are working differently today and looking for a more balanced mindset. Members who are younger and are now working differently in their own careers often become advocates for their clubs, changing the dynamics of staff requirements.

Additionally, large-scale dining platforms or movements are being showcased through the following club trends:

  • Citrus will always be popular, starting with lemonades and the classic Arnold Palmer, and now with other fruits including lime, grapefruit, various oranges and Yuzu (Japanese citrus fruit) continuing to gain interest in mocktails and cocktails alike.
  • Mushrooms are appearing everywhere, from steeped coffee infusions to vegetable dishes. The humble fungi have become popular once again.
  • Kimchi, Kombucha and probiotics are continuing to take hold as fermented foods are “feel good” body-aligned products.
  • Non–dairy milks, oat, wheat, almond, soy, and nuts/seeds remain popular.
  • Global culinary interests, Vietnamese, Singaporean, Indian, & Thai emerge in a luxury interest over the popular Chinese, Mexican, or Italian.
  • Individual portions are valued and are being added with snacks at the halfway house, bar, or even fitness centers.
  • Grains are endless. Ancient grains or expanded flour offerings continue to find their way to menus as expected offerings (buckwheat, farro, quinoa, wild rice).
  • Mocktail/alcohol-free spirits will have a very small but influencing part in the bar service. Embrace it; don’t ignore it or consider it a special order.
  • Sweeteners other than sugar are popular. Honey is always embraced, dates, coconut sugar, brown rice syrup, monk fruit and even the classic maple syrup have become more conversational.
  • Bamboo, wood and paper still lead the way for appreciation by members for packaging. The classic Styrofoam cup really seems out of touch.
  • Staff value and recognition. The celebration of the employee is endless and those who focus on this traditionally find more loyalty from staff and more referrals from existing staff.

Club Trends – Winter 2024

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

Helping F&B Gain Favor2024-02-26T15:17:43+00:00

Evolving Workplaces

Evolving Workplaces

What makes for a good culture among the employees at a club, and how do clubs maintain it in the face of a continually changing environment? The COVID-19 pandemic changed many things about society, including the culture of the service and hospitality industries.

Technology and employee benefits certainly play a part in culture, but other elements such as communication, acceptance of employees regardless of appearance, and adapting schedules have become even more important.

Culture often starts with good communication. Staying connected with employees during the pandemic by updating them, conducting wellness checks, and engaging with them regularly was greatly appreciated, says Lawrence McFadden, CMC. Now that level of communication is expected, especially as employees return to work and evaluate if the organizations they work for still uphold these values.

“During a recent visit to a club, we inquired about the frequency of their notice board updates,” says Annette Whittley, Search & Consulting Executive at KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE. “A young assistant manager responded innocently, stating that there was no need for a notice board as all information could be conveyed through messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Teams, or text message.”

This remark illustrates the importance of communicating with our teams in the manner that suits them best, she continues. “Many of our clients use all three of these methods, and it is crucial to establish clarity on what information should be shared through which platform to avoid overwhelming them. We recommend setting clear expectations with your leadership and team on what topics should be discussed in person, through text, or on an app like Teams.”

Read the full article by Jennifer McNally in the 2023 September/October issue of Club Management Magazine.

Evolving Workplaces2023-10-31T10:57:30+00:00

Mastering the Interview: Navigating First Impressions and Leadership Selection

Mastering the Interview: Navigating First Impressions and Leadership Selection

Interviewing is more than just answering questions; it’s about presenting yourself, talking, and listening. When you interview well, the committee doesn’t just hear you; they feel your personality and patience. Good interviewees tailor their messages based on their audience’s reactions.

People often form opinions within the first five minutes of meeting you. Your body language and how you speak significantly affect their judgment. Chefs usually don’t go through many interviews; they often advance through mentors. It’s not just where you’ve worked, but who you’ve worked under that counts.

Interviews at private clubs are tough for chefs. You’re performing for a diverse group, and members may not understand the culinary world. That’s why having a recruiter helps. They can explain the chef’s background and clarify any misconceptions about the culinary industry.

The best interview committees are carefully chosen, not just made up of volunteers. These members understand the club’s goals, even if they’re not regular diners. But even self-proclaimed “foodies” on the committee might not be as adventurous or knowledgeable as they claim.

Interviews can go off track due to preconceived ideas about what a club chef should be, often based on the committee’s varied backgrounds. After the interview, chefs face a tasting round, cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen for strangers. These tastings are crucial but just one part of the evaluation.

Based on observing hundreds of chef interviews over the past year, here are some key tips:

  1. Arrive on time, as you’d expect from others.
  2. Dress professionally, no matter the club’s dress code. Follow Escoffier’s example: he dressed formally before changing into his chef’s attire.
  3. Remember, you’re there for the club’s brand, not your personal promotion. Keep everything, from your appearance to your behavior, professional.
  4. Speak with a steady, respectful tone. Take your time to show you care about the members’ concerns.
  5. Understand who you’re talking to; research the committee members’ backgrounds.
  6. Stay on topic with your answers, and don’t ramble.
  7. Don’t offer information they didn’t ask for; you might not have time to explain.
  8. Talk positively about past workplaces; it reflects well on you.
  9. Use light, appropriate humor. It shows the human side behind the chef’s apron.
  10. Avoid industry jargon. Keep your language clear to everyone.

Tough questions will come up. Handle them gracefully:

  1. Don’t dwell on past negative experiences. Stay professional.
  2. If you’ve been let go before, be honest, but focus on what you learned.
  3. If asked how long you plan to stay, show you’re committed as long as needed.
  4. Take care when leaving your current job. Good clubs will respect that.
  5. Be honest about why you’re moving on. It shows integrity in your decision-making.

Remember, communication isn’t just about what you say. It’s how you say it and your body language. Like a memorable meal, it’s not just the taste; it’s how you feel while experiencing it. That’s what leaves a lasting impression.

Club Resort + Chef – October 2023

Lawrence T. McFadden, CMC, ECM is a Certified Master Chef and Search & Consulting Executive for KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE. He is also Executive in Charge of the Club Leadership Alliance Food & Beverage Experience Network. Prior to joining KK&W and CLA, Lawrence served as General Manager/COO of the 146-year-old Union Club of Cleveland. His impressive 30-year career spans the globe with roles in Hong Kong and Singapore as well as some iconic operations state-side, including The Greenbrier, MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, The Ritz Carlton Company and The Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Mastering the Interview: Navigating First Impressions and Leadership Selection2023-12-07T17:27:49+00:00

Is Your Private Club Kitchen Outdated?


If your club hasn’t renovated and/or updated the kitchen lately, it may be time to invest in a kitchen renovation or remodel. Outdated kitchens are common in the club industry as money is often spent in areas of the club that are visible to members. However, culinary equipment and kitchen layouts have evolved dramatically over the years and significantly impact efficiency and production.

Certified Master Chef and hospitality consultant Lawrence McFadden often asks club executives to compare kitchens to cars. “Think about the car you drove 40 years ago compared to the car you drive today. From technology to design to cup holder placement, they are very different vehicles. The same is true with kitchens and kitchen equipment.”

McFadden explains club food and beverage offerings were very different 40 years ago compared to today. Back then salads were mostly sides, sandwiches were rarely served, most entrees were served hot and there were no concerns over food allergies (gluten, nuts, etc.). A twenty-to-forty-minute wait between courses was purposeful and little refrigeration space was required. Today, salads, wraps and sandwiches make up a significant portion of menu items requiring tremendous refrigeration space. Member allergies and diet preferences require separation and careful preparation of items. Made to order dishes and quick cook times are required to meet member demand.

Not only have menu items, member preferences and speed of service changed over the past four decades, technology has evolved dramatically as well. The Middleby Corporation represents numerous culinary brands and confirms that kitchen equipment has come a long way in the last 40 years. Technological advancements in culinary equipment significantly increase cooking precision, cooking speed, consistency, nutritional benefit and energy savings. Space-saving design and ventless cooking opportunities allow for more menu items to be prepared, culinarians to be more efficient and cook times to be greatly reduced. As an example, the latest kitchen equipment can cook paninis in 90 seconds, full pizzas in two minutes and 16-ounce steaks in four minutes! One can quickly see how these enhancements can positively impact culinary performance and the member experience!

When employees are difficult to find and retain, having equipment with automation means food items can be cooked to perfection with the click of a button. Today members expect great quality food, more variety, increased consistency and less wait time. While the kitchen is a “back of the house” area and may be difficult to generate member buy-in to the need and cost of the project, McFadden urges club executives to conduct member tours of the kitchen. “Showcase examples and solutions behind changes to enhance their understanding,” he said. McFadden also strongly recommends clubs seek outside expertise from a culinary consultant or food service company such as Boelter, which provides design, planning, logistics, delivery and installment of kitchen items. All too often, club kitchens are piecemealed together. When one piece of equipment broke down, it was simply replaced with a newer version of itself. Therefore, club kitchens lack creativity, efficiency, space and necessity for what is needed to create the member experience expected today.

The food and beverage department is often the area where most clubs struggle with consistency and/or high member satisfaction. Perhaps there is a direct correlation between food and beverage performance and the commonality of outdated kitchens in private clubs? While not every club kitchen needs a complete renovation, every club should consider a review of the culinary needs required for today and consider investing in an upgrade. The return on the member experience could be substantial.

Private Club Advisor – October 2023

Lawrence McFadden, CMC, ECM, Global Hospitality Professional
Lawrence T. McFadden, CMC, ECM is a Certified Master Chef and Search & Consulting Executive for KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE. He is also Executive in Charge of the Club Leadership Alliance Food & Beverage Experience Network. Prior to joining KK&W and CLA, Lawrence served as General Manager/COO of the 146-year-old Union Club of Cleveland. His impressive 30-year career spans the globe with roles in Hong Kong and Singapore as well as some iconic operations state-side, including The Greenbrier, MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, The Ritz Carlton Company and The Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Is Your Private Club Kitchen Outdated?2023-12-07T17:32:21+00:00

5 Tried-and-True Best Practices for Club F&B Programs

5 Tried-and-True Best Practices for Club F&B Programs

A recent presentation by Club Benchmarking highlighted food and beverage as the top member-value proposition for most clubs. But as illustrated by other articles in the Fall 2023 issue of Club Trends (see p. 6), F&B is also the leading source of dissatisfaction registered in member surveys.

This conundrum is exactly what differentiates club F&B programs from golf or tennis. Club members expect they can arrive without a reservation and still be seated, or that the way they would like a menu item to be deconstructed will always be remembered. But these expectations—or as the members see them, requirements—to meet personalized needs can often compromise the delivery of the product.


In hotel management, these are called an anticipation of needs, and recorded as individual preferences before or after a stay at a property. They are also documented in a company-wide reservation system. Experiencing the benefits of these practices as they travel the world only adds to members’ expectations to get the same treatment at their clubs.

Unfortunately, clubs don’t traditionally have the same sort of systems in place as major hotel chains, or the ability to make the needed capital investments to install them. This leaves the reality that member preferences and needs are often not recognized or addressed until the diner is standing at the hostess stand, or after they’re already seated.

The greatest conundrum is that while food is a very powerful emotion, what a member wants isn’t always reality. The good news, though, is that most of what club members want and enjoy as they dine really hasn’t changed in years. Much of what’s expected and seen as individual preferences can be defined and anticipated through a proper combination of traditional norms and emerging cultural realities.

Here are five tried-and-true traits that will serve every club well if they are properly embedded in their food-and-beverage programs, to consistently meet and satisfy the range of preferences and expectations that exists within their memberships:

  1. Authenticity

    It’s no longer good enough to just have a “global” dish on the menu. Clubs need to describe and present that dish or service through authentic ingredients and service touches in a theater-like structure. You must make the member feel as though they are actually visiting the location and sharing its culture.

    Even classic items like curry have taken on new meaning. That yellow spice sitting in the back of Mom’s spice rack can now be green, red, blue or have other regional-specific characteristics. Using the proper mixtures also defines what protein might be used, which vegetables have global origins and even from where the dish originates. This same sort of lineage has moved to every ingredient, from cheese to chocolate.

  2. Consistency

    This is the most humbling and challenging trait to achieve. While it’s not the leading factor in defining what makes a great meal or dining experience, consistency, which frequently emerges in surveys as the top source of member dissatisfaction with F&B, is key to developing trust and moving a dining program’s acceptance to greater heights.

    Consistency applies to more than having the temperature and taste of soups or steaks satisfy the right sensory expectations. Every diner also has an expectation of the right portion for the price. While clubs will never move to including pictures with their menus, a reason behind the sustained success of Denny’s or The Cheesecake Factory is the expectation their picture menus create, as well as the guidance those photos provide for the staff that must prepare and serve those items.

    Clubs need to find ways to satisfy what a member will expect to be served without regressing to pictures. Precise menu descriptions and very knowledgeable servers will help meet members’ expectations for whatever dish they choose.

  3. Repeatable Learnings

    Everyone enjoys being exposed to new things and getting educated on their own terms. When dining at a club, members love coming away from something new they learned about the source of ingredients or the origin of a dish that they can then share with friends. The F&B world is filled with such learnings, and it’s the responsibility of club professionals to uncover those unique stories and keep them front and center as part of a club’s dining agenda.

    For example, while some may know how grapes are grown, do they know the story of the farmer who buries quartz into the ground around the vines of his bio-dynamic offerings? Learning more about the process of how something is made, how it has evolved and how it has become part of a specific culture can help give ownership to how food feels, tastes, smells and is experienced. Many of these learnings can also become the basis for launching do-it-yourself or children’s programs that further engage members.

  4. Simplicity

    One of the most unique aspects of a club membership is that it spans such a wide range of age groups and generations, but that same characteristic poses special challenges for the F&B program. When the range of ages stretches from four to 94, simple norms like house salads, club sandwiches and regional soups take on added importance.

    Regardless of what dietary mood a member may be in, keeping a few club classics that are readily available and consistent in their appeal will always present a strong backup plan. And if they’re twists on old favorites for which a club has developed a unique presentation or flavor, that can only add to their value as a storytelling opportunity and special source of pride for members.

    Another key aspect of simplicity is making sure classic dishes arrive at members’ tables in familiar, recognizable forms that don’t jar expectations, unless new descriptions or titles have been assigned to them to describe how they’ve been changed. That’s why burgers now merit their own category on menus, stretching from all-beef to vegetarian with various sides. But one should never serve the hamburger bun on the side or with baked fries instead of fried, unless those distinctions have been made clear.

  5. Timeliness

    Thanks to wireless connections, speed is valued currency in many lives. Especially as their membership ranks have swelled in recent years, clubs must figure out ways to feed large amounts of people quickly, in great style and with extreme quality.

    This has ramped up interest in how to integrate more grab-and-go and self-service options into club dining without compromising member satisfaction. To accomplish this, clubs must be uber-organized to properly cook, package and deliver items in this fashion without disappointing expectations for proper variety, quality and speed.

    With its individualized packaging, beautiful display counters and efficient touches such as condiment sourcing, Starbucks has created and sustained a great example of self-service options that meet performance expectations. Clubs have the opportunity to build on the concept by also turning yesterday’s tired buffets into action cooking spaces that are set up across dining venues to offer individualized culinary portions. In this way, grab-and-go doesn’t really have to be viewed as a new trend, but as an upscaled extension of the type of self-service that has been around since we first ate at our own dining room table or moved through a school lunch line.

Beyond these five traits, staying at the forefront of member expectations also calls for clubs to remain ready to respond to other trending fads, as well as new dietary or even social movements. The foundation for members’ dining satisfaction, however, will always be formed by accurately delivering F&B products as promised, with quality ingredients at an expected price or portion, and through service that affords proper respect to diners and their time. Clubs that can build and maintain this foundation will gain the trust and loyalty from members that will be reflected by the proper measure of satisfaction with their F&B operations.

Club Trends – Fall 2023

Lawrence T. McFadden, CMC, ECM is a Certified Master Chef and Search & Consulting Executive for KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE. He is also Executive in Charge of the Club Leadership Alliance Food & Beverage Experience Network. Prior to joining KK&W and CLA, Lawrence served as General Manager/COO of the 146-year-old Union Club of Cleveland. His impressive 30-year career spans the globe with roles in Hong Kong and Singapore as well as some iconic operations state-side, including The Greenbrier, MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, The Ritz Carlton Company and The Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Annette Whittley, 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.

5 Tried-and-True Best Practices for Club F&B Programs2024-03-11T15:53:04+00:00
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