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 Outdated kitchens are common in the club industry as money is often spent in areas of the club that are visible to members.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.