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.