A perfect example of how to beat the chains

My club, Holston Hills CC in Knoxville, TN just hired a new Executive Chef.  With a newly remodeled kitchen and dining facility still in progress, the roll-out of the new menu has been limited — and for good reason, when  94% of Country Club restaurants lose money on Food & Beverage.  It’s not the (collective) club Restaurant’s fault when only 300-500 potential customers are all the club can serve despite great service and a high-quality product.

Last night my family decided to go to the club for their once-per-week (Friday) dinner.  The menu is limited…and I love it.  Two appetizers – $5.  A feature drink.  Three main courses & two dessert items.  And these selections change every week – another fantastic idea.  Simple.

I would like to convey a few things about my experience that you could use or keep in mind at your club:

  • When we arrived, we didn’t have to park 1/2 a mile away like we do on a busy Friday night at Outback.
  • Reservations were a snap.  No pager to carry around.  No one butchering my last name when our table was ready.  No bustling waiting area where everyone is texting annoying bird noises, watching (loud) videos, or talking on their phones like no one else exists.
  • When we arrived, they had nice table cards with the club logo and our names – great touch.
  • Of course, no chain in town can match the advantage of knowing who my family is when we walk in.  We were greeted by Eric and Curtis, by name.  It matters.
  • Service was prompt and attentive, not smothering, throughout the entire meal.
  • When our restaurant Manager, Jamie came by to say hello, he took the time to introduce himself to my son and shook his hand (he’s twelve years old).  This meant a lot to me.  Do you think this would ever happen at PF Changs or Red Lobster?
  • Because the kitchen isn’t pushing out meals every three minutes, our meal didn’t sit in the service window/area for six minutes.  It came out hot off the grill.
  • About mid-way through out meal, Chef Patrick came out to say hello and asked how our meal was.  This was genuine by the way, not forced.  My Father, who used to own and manage restaurants for years used to make a point of doing this – and he always had a big following of customers that yelp or tripadvisor couldn’t beat off with a stick.
  • At the club, it’s nice (sorry, I’m getting old) to have presentable folks take care of you.  Pressed clothing.  Friendly.  No nose rings, lip piercings, eye-brow piercings, tattoos, gum-chewing, or having to ask several times what they said because of a  tongue-piercing (this actually happened over a business lunch at a nice restaurant in downtown Knoxville a week earlier).
  • The music was soothing, no pumped up Lady GaGa, Bruno Mars, or Justin Bieber that we had to yell over.
  • My view?  Looking out over a 1927 Donald Ross masterpiece beats a parking lot view any day.
  • Finally,we didn’t feel rushed to leave because the Restaurant needed to turn our table over another 5-6 times.

All of these points are worth a 15-20% premium.

How you Market this is up to you:

  • A view looking out of the window of your club split-screened with a parking lot at Applebees?
  • Pictures of members that everyone knows enjoying the food (other members will ask how their experience was)?
  • A picture of the table cards with members names?
  • Pictures of the food being cooked on an open fire in the Kitchen or plated?
  • A few pictures of the staff members everyone loves welcoming members to come?
  • Maybe a comment or two from actual members that night raving about their experience?

These are ideas the chains simply can’t do, and won’t do.

Bon apetit’.




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