Food For Thought – Is Your Food and Beverage Operation Being Run Properly?

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I eat food. I drink beverages.

Therefore, I am qualified to oversee a Food and Beverage operation.

In assessing the operations of many clubs / resorts each month, I find that one of the most poorly operated, inconsistent areas of club / resort operations is Food and Beverage. Especially in member owned environments, which are often overseen by a club board, people seem to think that because they are dine out, they somehow have some level of expertise that allows them to make business decisions about this important aspect of the club. The reality is that this is one of the most complex departments in a club to manage, control, and produce a consistent experience.

Let's ask a few questions!

Is your Food and Beverage experience appropriate for what your members / guests want to have in your club / resort? Are you priced properly, too high, or too low? How do you know? Are you tracking cover counts by day? By shift? By hour?

Are your food selections stuck in yesteryear, a nice balance of old favorites and new selections, or edgy? Is your menu designed for function or fashion? Do you change your menu quarterly, or at least semi-annually to keep it fresh? Or is it changed every year or two and become a club dinosaur? What are your product specifications and portion sizes? Is every item on your menu costed? What is your goal for a la carte food cost? Do you know the contribution margin on every item on your menu?

What about your special events. Are they really special? Do they create a buzz in the Club? Are they eagerly anticipated or the same thing that was done the last 10 years with nothing more than the year changed in the newsletter and promotional piece touting the event? Is your staff challenged every quarter to try new events? New price points?

Got Value?

What about value added programming? It's happening every day in the hospitality industry. Chili's, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, Flemings, Cody's Roadhouse, McDonalds, Quiznos, Subway, and many other national franchises are actively programming to keep people coming in. Any wonder the success rate of franchises is over 90% while the success rate of individually owned restaurants is about 10%?

What are you doing in your club to create a "WOW" for your members / guests in your Food and Beverage offerings? Are you standing pat on your $ 32 filet and $ 28 sea bass wondering why are you doing so few covers? Or, are you trying new concepts that may provide "meal replacement" dining instead of only "special occasion" dining?

Something as simple as Happy Hour can generate additional usage. Comfort food such as meatloaf, chicken pot pie, lasagna, or similar for "at $ 8 or $ 9 during the week are popular. Taco bars, pasta bars, burger night, half price on bottles of house wine, Fresh Fish Fridays or a Friday Fish Fry, a Chef's selection at a special price on slower evenings, sushi nights, appetizers at a special price, entertainment, and many other concepts and events drive usage, provide incremental revenue, and keep the staff working. Your club / resort? Give it a try. You'll be surprised at the buzz it creates.

The Experience

How is your dining room presented? With white tablecloths? No tablecloths? Placemats? Are you charging appropriately for the experience you are providing?

How are your buffets presented? Elegantly with skirting, floral displays, and shiny silver chafing dishes? Or rudimentary with little or no frills? Does it make sense?

Do you have standards of operation to ensure the food and beverage experience for your members / guests? Is every staff member wearing a clean and pressed designated uniform? Is there a specific way to present menus, serve, food, cocktails, and wine? Are members called by name? Are specific steps of service in place?

Does the service staff know the composition of every item, sauce, and portion size from the menu? Is training provided at least monthly? Is your staff selling suggestively?

The Technical Aspects

How often do you take a physical inventory? Is there "independence" in the inventory process to ensure that the counts are accurate? Is inventory pricing adjusted regularly to reflect the most recent cost the club is paying for all inventoried items or is the cost the club paid last year still being used to determine inventory value?

Do you follow this mantra when receiving and inventorying products?

If you buy it by the pound, weigh it. If you buy it by the piece, count it. If you buy it by ounce or length, measure it? Under no circumstances, accept it blindly.

I am amazed at how often deliveries are accepted and signed for without even physically being in the same room as the products that were delivered let alone checking the packing slip or invoice against the goods received. Delivery people become savvy very quickly to those who hold them accountable and those who do not. A few pounds of missing steak here or a few bottles of missing liquor there costs a lot of money over an extended period of time.

How much unusable food is stashed away in the freezer, often a chef's best friend, and continues to be count every month during inventory yet is essentially worth little or nothing?

What does the organizational structure look like in your club's F & B operation? How are your supervisors compensated? Are they induced to produce a specific financial result, train the staff, and maintain standards? Or are they paid simply for showing up?

How is your service staff paid? By hourly wage? Tip pool? Some combination of both? Does your pay structure promote tenure or turnover? What about overtime? Are you paying overtime? Legally?

In addition to costing every item on every menu, have you done the same for liquor, beer, and wine? Do you have specified pour sizes? Are they being adhered to? Do you have pourers which allow only for the pour size for which you are charging? How much of your club's resort's cash is tied up in wine inventory? Have you established par stocks?

Do you have a Food and Beverage minimum? Does it make sense for your club? Do you have a minimum monthly service charge? Should you?

Do you provide an employee meal? How is it accounted for? Is it accounted for at all? Do you allow employees to remove food / beverage from the club? (A bad idea!). Do you allow your employees to consume alcoholic beverages at the end of a shift? (An even worse idea !!).

Private Events

What about your Private Events? Is your catering menu priced right? What does priced right mean? Have you assessed the competitive environment? What are you doing to bring weddings and meetings to the club / resort? Are you covering the costs of setting up and breaking down every room based on the different needs of each event?

Do your private event policies make sense? When is the "guarantee" due? When is payment in full required? Do you require a signed contract? Do you even have a contract that you require be signed?

A Solution

Lots of questions! Get a management company that will work collaboratively with you to answer all of these and any others and create a customized food and beverage experience that reflects your unique situation and provides what your members / guests want and are willing to pay for.