The Golf Course Superintendent

April 13th, 2015

Maintaining a championship quality golf course may cost a million dollars a year or more depending upon location and the owner’s desired quality.  This coupled with the fact that much of the work of grooming, setting up, and maintaining a golf course is labor intensive makes the Golf Course Maintenance staff one of the larger staffs in a golf operation.  Managing this large, highly specialized operation requires a professional turf management expert as well as a sound business manager.

Modern Golf Course Superintendents are typically graduates of collegiate level turf management schools.  Before ascending to the Superintendent position, they typically work a number of years at golf courses learning the practical skills of their trade and working their way up to Assistant Golf Course Superintendent.  They are typically compensated with a base salary commensurate with their education, background, and experience.  On top of that they may be offered a bonus opportunity for meeting budget or other specified goals.

Their challenge in the golf business is unique—how to maintain an artificially created playing environment with specialized grasses in various regions of the country with a host of micro-climates and conditions at the highest possible level while meeting the desires of the owners and players.  A superintendent’s knowledge base includes agronomy, pesticides (herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers), soil composition, irrigation techniques, turf care equipment and techniques, equipment maintenance, tree and shrubbery care, and a deep knowledge and love of the game of golf.

Every golf course is different; in fact, every hole on every golf course is different.  Combinations of soil, water, grass, sunlight, weather, temperature, and the knowledgeable application of chemicals make each area of the course a microcosm of nature.  This, the Superintendent is responsible for knowing, tending, and nurturing throughout the year.  Ironically, the end of all his efforts—the players for whom he is trying to provide ideal playing conditions on the course—are the very ones that damage and degrade the course with every round played.  All this requires the Superintendent to monitor conditions on the course very carefully day by day.

The Superintendent and the Head Golf Professional need to work closely on a number of important issues —course set up, pin placements, tournament and event schedule, major turf treatment schedules, and playability.  Like the Head Golf Professional, the Superintendent in a private club setting reports to a committee of members—the Greens Committee.  Often his greatest challenge will come from individual members with an uninformed opinion and vision for the golf course.

The Superintendent hires, trains, and supervises a large staff of specialists and laborers to set up and maintain the course.  In larger operations he will usually be assisted by an Assistant Professional, an Equipment Mechanic, a Chemical Applicator, an Irrigation Technician, Crew Leaders, Equipment Operators, and Greenskeepers.  Throughout the year there are different tasks confronting the GC Maintenance staff.  Various applications of fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides, mowing the fairways, roughs, collars, and greens during the growing season, setting up the course each day with pin placements, leaf blowing in the fall, repairs from storm damage, and constant repairs to course equipment.  During the slower winter months there is a large effort to service the specialized course equipment—including fairway mowers, greens mowers, aerators, utility carts, and other equipment.

In many parts of the country, golf courses need to be irrigated to maintain the growth and vitality of the grasses.  Modern golf courses used computerized irrigation systems that allow the Superintendent to adjust the amount and cycles of course irrigation with pop-up sprinkler heads, all controlled from the Superintendent’s office by a computer.  The downside to irrigation systems are the inevitable breaks and washouts on the course caused by pressurized water.

Most Golf Course Maintenance staffs are made up of a core staff of year-round, full time employees.  During the busy season this staff is augmented with seasonal workers.  While most private clubs close their courses one day a week, very often that day is reserved for golf outings—a great way to increase overall club revenues.  Naturally these outings come during the busier, more popular times of the year for golf play.  As a result, the Golf Course Maintenance staff must frequently work long hours and long weeks to maintain the course.  In other operations such as resorts, golf is played 7 days a week, thereby increasing the wear and tear on the course and challenge to maintain the course in optimum condition.

While the Superintendent makes every effort to give players optimum playing conditions on a daily basis, he also adjusts fertilizer applications and water schedules in the weeks before major events and tournaments to give the course the fast and firm conditions that are difficult to achieve all the time.  This necessitates the Head Golf Professional and Superintendent working closely together to schedule major course maintenance at times that won’t impact major events.

In addition to the ongoing maintenance of the course, the Superintendent is responsible for the daily set up of the course.  This requires a team of employees to change the pin placement, mow the greens and collars, replenish the on-course water, refill and service the ball washers, empty the course trash containers—all before the first players tees off.

Throughout the year the Superintendent must monitor weather and course conditions and make daily decisions about whether carts must remain on the cart paths or whether the ninety degree rule will permit carts on the course.  Whenever inclement weather occurs, the Superintendent must quickly mobilize his staff to repair any damage on the course.  This can include rebuilding bunker walls, storm debris cleanup, tree removal, marking any parts of the course under repair, noting drainage problems for scheduled repair work, and ensuring that all sprinkler heads are operating properly.

Though Superintendents operate from a golf course maintenance facility, they are usually on the course and can best be reached by cell phone or radio, especially during the busy season.  While most Superintendents will tell you that theirs is a tough job, most wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

 

Conducting Employee Counseling/Disciplinary Sessions

April 6th, 2015

How you conduct counseling and disciplinary sessions has a lot to do with their success.

First, the meeting must be held in private, in a quiet, uninterrupted setting.  You may wish to include a witness, such as a trusted associate or the Personnel Administrator.  Do not use a departmental peer of the employee being counseled.

Second, the tone of the session should match the purpose.

  • If the session is for counseling, the meeting should be less formal, more comfortable, and supportive.  The conversation should focus on constructive criticism, problem discovery, and proposed solutions.  While this should be done in a supportive way, it is also necessary to communicate to the employee the negative consequences of continued problems.
  • When the purpose of the meeting is disciplinary, the session should be formal and the tone serious.  The idea is to impress upon the employee the serious nature his actions, the impending consequences if he does not improve his behavior or performance, and the issuance of the disciplinary report, suspension, or discharge, as the case may warrant.

Third, your investigation of any incident or your documentation of a series of problems must be thorough and detailed.  Do not go off half-cocked to write somebody up before investigating.  You may have an incomplete picture of what happened and be embarrassed when the full story comes out.

Fourth, after telling the employee the reason for the meeting and relating the incident or allegations as you know them, give him a chance to tell his side of the story.  He may have mitigating circumstances or give a very different version of what happened.

His story may require further investigation.  You may need to call other people in as witnesses or to corroborate or contradict his version.

Fifth, after hearing his side of the story, decide what action you will take and prepare the Record of Employee Counseling, CRI Form 103, describing the incident or problem, allowing him to offer any response, and providing your summary of the counseling or disciplinary action.

Last, present him with the Report.  Ask for his signature.  If he chooses not to sign, so note it.  Make sure the Report is complete.  Provide the employee with a copy, send the original to the Personnel Administrator for inclusion in the employee’s Personnel File, and save a copy for your departmental files.

Documenting the Session

The key to successful disciplinary actions is good documentation.  Supervisors have two documentary tools at their disposal – Staff Notes and the Records of Employee Counseling.

As previously mentioned, Staff Notes are daily or weekly notes made about employees’ performance.  They should contain instances of tardiness, absences, failure to follow instructions and procedures, complaints, arguments or disputes with other employees, instances of outstanding performance, etc.  These brief notes are invaluable in helping you reconstruct circumstances, give details in review sessions, or document continuing disciplinary problems of a minor nature.

Records of Employee Counseling are to be used for formal documentation of problems when you wish to give the employee a copy.  These reports must be filled out completely and accurately.  If you fail to enter a date, fail to sign it, fail to present it to the employee, or fail to get his signature or note “chose not to sign,” the record may be useless as documentary evidence.

Right to Respond       

Each employee subject to a disciplinary action has a right to respond.  Such response should come within 7 days of the disciplinary action, i.e., the meeting when he was informed of the action.

You should consider the response, amend the report if warranted, and attach the response without alteration to all copies of the Record of Employee Counseling (personnel file copy and departmental copy).

Choosing Not to Sign 

Employees are requested to sign all Records of Employee Counseling, but have an absolute right not to sign.

The absence of the employee’s signature will not affect the validity of the document, so long as it is noted that it was presented to him.

If an employee chooses not to sign, do this by writing “chose not to sign” and the date on the signature line.  Please do not use the words “refused to sign” as this connotes coercion or lack of choice.

Summary

Developing employees to their fullest potential and establishing and maintaining discipline are two of the core responsibilities of a supervisor.  Ultimately your success and our success as an organization depends upon how well supervisors train, lead, motivate, and develop their employees.

Establishing and maintaining discipline in a reasonable, fair, and consistent way contributes to good morale and improved departmental performance.  It will also protect you and the club from wrongful discharge and discrimination lawsuits.

Excerpted from the Managers Handbook

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

 

A Service Attitude

March 30th, 2015

While each person brings his or her own attitudes to the workplace, your company expects employees to be indoctrinated into a culture of absolute dedication to quality and the needs of the customer.

Your emphasis as a leader and all the training focus for your employees is on learning how to say YES to customers.  If this attitude is kept foremost in mind, it will help you and your employees handle any unusual requests or difficult situations involving customers.  This indoctrination is the ongoing responsibility of leaders at every level and can best be accomplished by your wholehearted support, daily reinforcement, and personal example.

Equally important, this attitude should characterize your work relationships with fellow employees – your internal customers.  Everyone who works for your company is a member of a team trying to accomplish the same mission.  Cheerful and complete cooperation with one another makes work easier, more meaningful, and fun.  Your first thought when approached by a customer, external or internal, should be “How can I help this person; how can I be of service?”

Attitude is the major determinant of success in any endeavor.  Your thoughts color everything you do.  Each person has a filter through which all sense perceptions pass.  Since the conscious mind can only process so much information, perceptions are screened and only those supporting your thought system, biases, and views are accepted.  All others are rejected.  Stated another way – since your brain interprets sensory information to support what you already believe – YOU ARE WHAT YOU THINK!

If you believe yourself to be misunderstood or mistreated, you will seek every piece of evidence to support this belief.  If you are optimistic and happy, you will select every perception that supports that happiness and optimism.  The process is self-reinforcing and reciprocal.  If your thoughts tend to the negative, you will see only the negative.  If a person is a liar, he or she will assume that everyone lies and will go through life never trusting anyone.

The implication is that you create the world you want through your thoughts.  People who are upbeat and look for the good in everything know that, while they cannot control events, THEY CAN CONTROL THEIR REACTIONS TO THOSE EVENTS!  Simply put, you can make whatever you want of any situation.

Attitudes are clearly infectious and you owe it to others to be as positive and cheerful as possible.  One defeatist, grumbling, negative attitude can ruin the day for many others.  The sad thing is that you allow the negative person to do this.  When one considers the uproar in society over the danger to people’s health from passive smoking, it is surprising that they aren’t just as adamant about the threat to health from passive bad attitude.

So don’t tolerate your employees’ bad moods.  Confront them; shock them back into an acceptable frame of mind.  Tell them to go home if they can’t be in a better mood.  The requirement must be:

“Be of Good Cheer or Don’t Be Here!”

As a leader you are responsible for building morale within your team.  Protect your employees from people with negative attitudes and sour moods.  Don’t permit one employee to drag down an entire operation.  Confront, counsel, and, if necessary, discharge the employee.

Excerpted from Leadership on the Line:  A Guide for Front Line Supervisors, Business Owners and Emerging Leaders

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

Quality and Service

March 16th, 2015

I have yet to come across a hotel, resort, restaurant, club, golf course, or management company that doesn’t claim to offer its customers/members/guests extraordinary, legendary, remarkable, superb, world-class (you pick the one) levels of service; yet how many of these organizations have taken the time or made the effort to define their quality and service standards?

Let us take a moment to define what we mean by service and quality.  According to Dictionary.com:

  • Service is “the act of helpful activity.”  In hospitality operations it is the process or performance of some task or event for your customers/guests/members.
  • Quality is “a characteristic or property that signifies relative merit or excellence.”  In our industry the word is used to express the relative merits or excellence of the facilities, amenities, activities, and service we provide our customers.

Given that a hospitality operation’s quality is defined by the relative merits of those things and the service provided to customers, let us pose some questions regarding the service to which you aspire or claim to offer:

  • Have you or your organization defined what service is for your service-delivery employees?
  • Have you explained or trained your employees what you and your customers’ expectations for service are?
  • Do you know what your customers expect when it comes to service?  If so, how do you know?  What methodology is used to determine customers’ needs and expectations?
  • Have you identified your key service touch points or moments of truth for your employees?
  • Have you taught or demonstrated for your employees how to handle various touch points in all their possible variations and contingencies?
  • Have you documented touch points and service standards, policies, and procedures to ensure that they are taught consistently to each new employee and new generations of employees?
  • Do you have a means of measuring compliance with service standards, policies, and procedures?
  • Do you have a process to address service failures?
  • Do you have a process to make service failures right for your customers?
  • Do you have a process to discover underlying causes of service failures to ensure they don’t happen again?
  • Do you have a consistent process to educate employees about changes to standards, policies, and procedures to eliminate service failures?
  • Do you have a means of monitoring service failures to identify trends or spot problems?
  • Do your employees know that they can self-report their service failures without fear or repercussions?

If you’ve answered “no” to the majority of the questions above, you do not provide quality service.  What you do provide is a series of interactions between customers and employees that may or may not meet the expectations of customers or management.  The quality you provide is based purely on chance and, therefore, has an unacceptably high risk of service failures.

If the above describes your operation’s quality and service, there is much to work on to meet the promises you’ve made to customers/guests/members.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

The Foundation for Remarkable Service

March 9th, 2015

It all starts with leadership.  Strong and stable leadership is the single most important requirement to successful hospitality operations.  While there are many styles of leadership suited to any industry or endeavor, experience over many years in hotels, resorts, and private clubs makes it clear that a service-based approach to leadership works best in the service industry.

Service-Based Leadership differs from other leadership styles in its focus on serving the needs of employees to provide them with the proper tools, training, resources, motivation, and empowerment to serve customers.  The importance of this support can be inferred by the question:

“How can employees provide quality service if they are not properly served by the leadership, example, and ongoing support of their managers?”

Being a serviced-based leader requires many different skills, but two are so critical to providing quality service that they bear special mention.  First is the will to make it happen.  Building a Remarkable Service Infrastructure is not a one-time event or a single set of instructions to employees.  It is a challenging and ongoing endeavor that may take years to fully implement.  Building a Remarkable Service Infrastructure entails changing people’s attitudes and behaviors.

Even in a start-up operation where there is no tradition or ingrained institutional habits to overcome, newly hired managers and employees bring their own service experiences with them.  Given the relatively poor and inconsistent state of service throughout the industry, most often they simply bring habits practiced in previous jobs.  This multitude of experiences and habits must be transformed into a unified system that supports the discipline of quality.

The second necessary skill is communication.  There is a tremendous amount of detail involved in hospitality operations.  An open flow of information all around makes it easier to communicate expectations, give daily direction, uncover issues and problems, and ensure that all employees are on the same page.  Communication bottlenecks, usually caused by uncommunicative and aloof managers, impede efficient operations and make it harder for everyone to do their jobs.

To build the infrastructure, the leader must communicate service values at every opportunity and continually reinforce the culture of service.  The leader must be both patient and persistent. Instructions and reinforcement will have to be given over and over again.  Training and implementation must be repeated at intervals until every employee gets the message and provides consistent quality service in every situation.

While it is recognized that the General Manager must be a strong leader, it is also critical that the operation’s subordinate managers and supervisors are also trained to be strong service-based leaders.  While some of a leader’s skill-set seems to be inborn, such as confidence and an analytical mind, and others are developed early in life, like judgment and basic communication abilities, the great majority of a leader’s skills are learned.  But unless junior managers are systematically trained to develop the skills which have to do with building and sustaining meaningful work relationships, their leadership development will be haphazard, and the vision and message of service will not be communicated consistently or faithfully to line employees.

Upon this leadership foundation, then, are the components of the Remarkable Service Infrastructure – those organizational systems and disciplines which comprise the building blocks that lead to Remarkable Service.

Excerpted from The Quest for Remarkable Service

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

Providing Guidelines for Empowered Behavior

March 2nd, 2015

Hospitality operations need to ensure that leaders provide guidelines and information for empowered behaviorHaving developed the necessary environment for empowerment by valuing and trusting employees, while communicating values and goals to them, the leader’s next step is to establish the framework for empowered action.

With the understanding that most hospitality employees have never experienced working in an empowered organization, the leader must plant the seeds of empowerment by suggesting ways in which employees can act in empowered ways.

1.   Develop a list of most frequent customer complaints or issues.  By enlisting your employees’ help in identifying problem areas or issues, you send a strong message to them that you value their opinions and input.  This is the first step in helping them realize that they can be empowered to solve the problems.

2.   Brainstorm empowerment opportunities.  Once your team has identified problem areas, brainstorm with them how these problems might be properly resolved.  In the give and take discussion while brainstorming, your team will gain deeper insights of how and why problems should be resolved in particular ways and what might be the best resolution of a particular issue.

3.   Establish standards or limits of empowerment.  As the leader, you should guide the discussion to the appropriate solutions.  Ultimately, while employees may make decisions and take empowered action, it is up to you to ensure that they take the appropriate action and understand the guidelines of their authority.  In other words, you’re responsible for establishing the standards and limits of their empowerment.

4.   Challenge your team to work on one or two of the identified problem areas.  Select the most pressing of the identified problem areas or those that represent easy-to-fix issues; then challenge your team to make decisions on their own and take action to resolve them.  Make sure they understand that they will not be punished for doing the wrong thing and that any errors will only be used as learning opportunities for everyone involved.

5.   Set up a schedule of ongoing meetings.  Meetings every week or so are opportunities to review how the team is doing, what problems they’ve encountered, how they might resolve such problems, and to encourage the team toward further empowerment.

Excepted from The Power of Employee Empowerment

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

There’s Gold in Catering, But You Have to Mine It!

February 24th, 2015

Catering is the most lucrative food and beverage activity for a private club.  This is so because of the economies of scale in serving a known number of guests a specific menu at a set time.  Club operators with the appropriate facilities fully recognize the value of catered functions as a means to boost revenues and net profit.  Savvy club members recognize that a robust catering operation subsidizes their club’s operation, relieving ever escalating cost pressures, rising dues, and periodic assessments.

Despite the many benefits of catered functions, how many managers put the necessary effort into this greatest of opportunities?  With a little bit of effort you can mine the vein of catering gold for your club.  Here are some common sense ways to exploit catering to your club’s benefit:

  • If your facilities and the opportunity are sufficient to justify the cost, hire a dedicated catering manager to sell and service catered events.
  • Establish a catering contract and policies to cover all aspects of the catering operation to include space utilization, minimums, guarantees, room charges, special service fees, room set ups, equipment rental fees, etc.
  • In conjunction with your chef, design attractive catering menus, pricing, and a catering sales packet.
  • Develop a catering marketing plan to focus action and accountability on attracting business.
  • View your catering space the same way a hotel views a room night or an airline views a seat on a flight – as the most perishable product you have.  If not used on a given day or evening, the revenue opportunity is lost forever!
  • Benchmark your catering operation in detail.  At a minimum track your space utilization rates and average revenue per function for each catering venue in your club.  Break down your benchmarks into times with similar demand or usage such as weekday (Tues, Wed, Thurs) versus weekend (Fri, Sat, Sun).  Track the utilization of your most lucrative venues such as your main ballroom for high end functions such as weddings and holiday parties.  Compare year to year benchmarks to track progress or spot weaknesses.  Use previous year benchmarks to set sales targets for future periods.
  • Aggressively court your membership to hold or sponsor functions for their businesses, trade associations, or as a venue for the special occasions of families and friends.
  • Ensure your staff recognizes the importance of catering to the success of the club and that the many “touch points” in planning and execution are seamless, efficient, and with “over the top” service.
  • Ensure follow up to all events to guarantee complete satisfaction and continual process improvement.

Bank robber Willie Sutton said he targeted banks because “that’s where the money is.”   Club managers need to target their catering operation for maximum use and efficiency for the same reason.  While I may be mixing metaphors, don’t neglect the catering gold for a lack of effort to fully “mine” the potential.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

What I Expect from My Catering Director

February 16th, 2015

As every club manager knows, catering is the most lucrative part of a club’s food and beverage service since it adds revenue volume, economies of scale, and certainty to a very uncertain and volatile business.  Lucky is the club that has the appropriate facilities and venues, as well as a board that recognizes the contribution and necessity of a robust catering business to the club’s bottom line.  But having the facilities and strong backing of the board is only the first step in a successful catering operation.

Having a disciplined and detail-oriented Catering Director to oversee the operation is the single most important contributor to success in catering.  Not only must the club find and hire such a professional, but the General Manager must clearly spell out his or her expectations for the Catering Director.  Here are my requirements:

Conduct a market analysis of the club membership and the areas around the club to determine potential demand for catering and meeting services.  This analysis should consider any rules or restrictions the club has on accepting outside business, as well as identify and analyze in depth any competition the club will have for these services.  This analysis should be reviewed and updated annually.

Prepare an Annual Catering Sales Marketing Plan and budget.  This plan should identify potential target markets and how to best reach them, specific programs or campaigns to market club catering and meeting services, monthly sales goals, and measures and reports to track efforts to meet the plan.

Prepare appropriate collateral materials to support the catering marketing effort.  These should include a proper presentation folder and brochure with lots of professional photographs of your club and venues; sample menus and price lists, room diagrams, planning checklist, planning worksheet, sample room set-ups, sample contract, and all club policies relating to catering.  These materials tend to be quite expensive, but they are important selling tools in your catering business.  There are other low or no-cost options available as you can see here.

Organize the planning and execution of the catering department to include the one-time development of the following:

  • Room diagrams for all venues to include dimensions, capacities with various set-ups, and occupancy limits; location of electrical outlets, lighting and sound controls, telephone jacks, HVAC controls; availability of wi-fi; availability of window shades and lighting controls to darken rooms; and a list of available audio/visual and computer equipment.  Diagrams should be prepared for each venue with various set-ups to show prospective clients and as a guide to help club staff set up rooms for specific events.
  • Menus and pricing for different meals and types of events, including sit-down banquets; receptions with buffets, serving or carving stations, or passed trays; continental breakfasts; and meeting breaks.  Experience has shown that a limited number of “packages” aid in the selling process and reduce the time investment in custom menu planning.  This is not to say that the club won’t do custom planning, but anything that limits the up-front investment of planning time makes the operation more efficient.
  • Menus and pricing for different alcoholic beverage arrangements such as open bars, cash bars, beer and wine service, cordial service, champagne service.
  • All catering policies to include hosting policy, deposits, minimums, guarantee counts, cancellations and postponements, service charges, client decorations, entertainment, corkage and plating fees, client supplied food, donations, rentals, methods and timing of payments, fire safety, etc. must be determined, formalized, and printed up to provide to prospective clients.
  • A catering contract that includes all the policies and notes who, if anyone, is allowed to modify the contract at the event.  This is useful protection for the club when, in the flush of a great celebration, the client’s daughter tells the staff that she wants to keep the open bar going for another hour.
  • Written policies and procedures for all the various meal, alcoholic beverages, and meeting set-ups.  This is used to train the banquet staff to a common standard for set-ups, preparation, execution, breakdown, and cleanup for events.  This is a major one-time effort, but it will save the club hours in efficiency of operations, while providing consistent quality service to all clients.
  • Training material for catering staff covering all aspect of catering preparation, set-up, and service.
  • Agreements with rental and special services firms for tents, limousines, valet parking, audio-visual, telecommunications, computers, party favors, and decorations.

Access membership demographics for celebratory dates such as anniversaries and birthdays to be used to “sell” private functions and parties to club members.  It is also important to “mine” the data of members’ business ownership as these companies will be prime target markets for business meetings and events.

Benchmark usage of all venues to determine utilization rates with the aim of establishing policies and pricing strategies to maximize use and revenues of key dates and times for prime function space.

Benchmark activities by type such as banquets (plated and seated), receptions (buffets, serving stations, passed trays), and coffee breaks.  Track number of events, number of attendees, revenues, average revenue per event by type of event.  This information can be used to budget, establish future period goals, and help establish policies and pricing to maximize revenues by type of event.

Prepare a Weekly Catering Sales Report for the general manager to include catering event and revenues for the week, key benchmarks, prospecting efforts, call reports, and 60-day rolling forecast of upcoming events.

Conduct after-event calls and surveys of catering clients to determine level of satisfaction with event and service.  The focus of such surveys is to capture future business while improving any areas of dissatisfaction.

Like any other product or service, the club’s catering function must stand head and shoulders above its competition and continually strive to improve its quality, service, and standing in the community.  Such dedication to quality and continual process improvement will ensure the club the success of its catering operation.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

 

Can This Be a Risk-Reward for Club Managers?

February 9th, 2015

Risk-Reward is a commonly heard term when discussion a golfer’s choice of shots in a competitive match.  In taking a significant risk of failure, the golfer can go for the green and, if successful with a challenging shot, reap the reward of a better score.  In the financial world “risk-reward” is used to describe the potential for greater gain by taking a riskier position.

The underlying connotation is often a gutsy decision based on the elevated risk of failure.  Such a gamble may be appreciated, even applauded, when the stakes – whether winning the match or scoring big in the commodities market – are personal, that is, the downside impacts only the person taking the risk.

In the club management profession, though, the actions of the manager impact the welfare and investment of the club’s members, so decisions affecting the club’s performance and solvency should be made with care and full consideration of all risks involved.  Certainly this is what conscientious managers do every day while diligently managing the operation, meeting the budget, ensuring the club continues as a going concern, and planning strategically for the club’s future.

As every club manager knows, such strategic planning requires careful evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the club, as well as seeking those opportunities that offer greater success and security while recognizing and avoiding potential threats to the organization’s viability.

While there may be some sizeable external threats to a club such as competition from a new club with more extensive and up-to-date amenities or the closing of a large employer in the community resulting in the loss of members, there are far more significant threats within the club’s operations – the unappreciated and often ignored potential for legal action as a result of unaddressed liability issues.

Such issues usually arise from one of two causes:

1.   Managers and supervisors, intentionally but more often inadvertently, violating federal, state, or local laws and ordinances relating to the workplace.

2.   Lawsuits by members, applicants for membership, current or former employees, vendors, visitors to the property, community members, or club neighbors for almost any complaint imaginable, but most often related to club operations, ill-advised operational or board-mandated policies, or alleged negligence on the part of the club or its employees.

In the first instance, the underlying problem is often poorly-trained managers or supervisors who are unfamiliar with the detail and nuance of a wide variety of regulatory requirements such as the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, Equal Employment Opportunity/Discrimination, and others.  See Legal and Liability Issues for more information.

While it is in every manager’s best interest to be familiar with the basics of such regulation, it is the absolute responsibility of the club to properly train their management and supervisor employees in the full scope of their duties.  This can accomplished by a combination of establishing and making available detailed club standards, policies, and procedures covering all areas of concern (for an example see Club Personnel Standards, Policies and Procedures) and by providing sufficient indoctrination and ongoing refresher training and reminders of these important requirements (for examples see Managers Handbook and On the Go Training).  Doing anything less is a form of management malpractice and, given the potential for significant fines and penalties, as well as the damage to the club’s reputation, is a risk that must not be ignored.

In the second case of lawsuits arising from a broad range of issues, the burden is again on management to be familiar with existing case law that has created a fairly broad picture of the legal risks of operating a private club and a clear indication of actions and safeguards to put in place to avoid such suits.  See Book Review – Club Litigation Book – Keeping Clubs Out of Court for a comprehensive review of club litigation and steps to take to avoid lawsuits.

Managers must understand that while lawsuits are relatively infrequent occurrences, they most frequently spring from loosely-operated establishments that have not considered and planned for known or potential contingencies.  Finally, the cost of defending from litigation and the size of potential judgments can be an existential threat to the ongoing operation of the club.

Bottom Line:  Risk-Reward can be a gutsy play on the golf course, but ignoring the legal and liability risks to a club can have a devastating downside for which there is no reward.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

 

How to Attract and Retain Super Service Employees

February 2nd, 2015

By analyzing and considering the wants and needs of super service employees, it is possible to set up programs to attract and retain them.  In simplest terms it boils down to respect, status, meaningful work, and enhanced compensation.  In particular I would focus on the following:

  • Establishing consistent Service-Based Leadership at your club.  The underlying premise of Service-Based Leadership is leaders at all levels who recognize the essential task of serving all constituents, including employees.  Weak or self-serving managers will drive them away.
  • Implementing employee empowerment – a natural extension of Service-Based Leadership.  Empowered employees are enlisted as partners in the club’s effort to improve the operation and provide high levels of service.  Super service employees want and need this enhanced participation and contribution.
  • Improving communications with employees.  All employees, but especially the super service ones, want to know what is going on and how the operation and direction of the club affects them.
  • Mentoring employees.  Curious and intelligent, super service employees appreciate the time and effort made in giving them the big picture and a deeper understanding of the workings of the club.
  • Creating “master” server positions that recognize higher skill levels and greater knowledge.  The job descriptions for these positions must clearly lay out those distinguishing skills, characteristics, and duties that warrant more responsibility and higher compensation.
  • Creating a clear career path of knowledge, skill development, and certification which allows other employees to set their sights on the more highly regarded and compensated master level.
  • Assigning master level employees the task of teaching and training those who aspire to the higher level.  Such tasking serves the super service employees’ need for participation and contribution while improving the overall skill level of other employees.
  • Challenging super service employees to engage in creative project work such as taking a larger role in training, creating more effective training programs, formulating and executing member relationship management strategies, and establishing a “wow” factor program for members.
  • Recognizing and rewarding super service employees.  Ensuring they know they are appreciated.  This not only serves their needs, but demonstrates to other employees their value, thereby motivating others to follow their example.  Rewards should also be tangible, such as:  higher pay based on their higher levels of performance and contribution; incentive opportunities based on clearly defined benchmarks; preference in scheduling; and educational benefits to further enhance job skills, knowledge, and opportunity.
  • Providing benefits to all employees based on well-defined employment statuses, i.e., full time, part time, and seasonal or temporary.  At a minimum benefits should include holiday pay for designated holidays, vacation time, personal/sick time, health benefits, and retirement benefits.

As an industry we can no longer view employees as a disposable asset, which is what we do when we view ongoing turnover as a cost control measure.  Operating small, stand-alone hospitality organizations with multiple businesses, high levels of service, and lean management staffs covering long hours and weeks is too difficult a task to do without a stable, competent workforce.  When we view labor as a disposable, easily-replaceable commodity, we condemn ourselves to high levels of turnover with its attendant training costs, turmoil, and loss of organizational continuity.  High levels of turnover must be viewed as a critical organizational and leadership failure that is damaging in all ways to the club’s mission and operation.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!