Archive for April, 2011

What I Expect of My Club Catering Director

Monday, April 25th, 2011

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:

1.      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.

2.      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.

3.      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.

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

a.       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.

b.      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.

c.       Menus and pricing for different alcoholic beverage arrangements such as open bars, cash bars, beer and wine service, cordial service, champagne service.

d.      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.

e.       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.

f.       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.

g.       Training material for catering staff covering all aspect of catering preparation, set-up, and service.

h.      Agreements with rental and special services firms for tents, limousines, valet parking, audio-visual, telecommunications, computers, party favors, and decorations.

5.      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.

6.      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.

7.      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.

8.      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.

9.      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 club 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 club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Authority, Responsibility, and Accountability

Monday, April 18th, 2011

“Authority,” “Responsibility,” and “Accountability” are three terms that are used frequently in connection with positions of leadership.  What exactly do these terms mean and how are they related?

Authority is defined as “a power or right, delegated or given.”  In this sense, the person or company that hires a leader vests him with the authority to manage or direct a particular operation. It is expected that this individual will exercise the full scope of his authority to properly, profitably, and professionally manage the operation.

Responsibility is defined as “a particular burden of obligation upon a person who is responsible.”  Responsible is defined as “answerable or accountable, as for something within one’s power or control.”  Therefore, a leader is responsible and has responsibility for the operation for which she has been given authority.

Accountability is defined as “subject to the obligation to report, explain, or justify something; answerable.”  A leader is answerable for the performance of the operation for which he has authority and is responsible.

Authority may be delegated to subordinates.  For example, a general manager may delegate the authority to collect delinquent accounts to the controller.  The controller then has the right to perform tasks associated with collection, such as sending past due notices, charging finance charges on delinquent accounts, and recommending bad debt write-off for seriously overdue accounts.  However, even though the general manager delegated the authority, he or she still has the responsibility to ensure that collections are done properly.  As the saying goes, “You can delegate authority, but not responsibility.” Even when you delegate, you are ultimately responsible for your organization’s performance.

As a leader, you are accountable for those functions and tasks that have been delegated to you.  Likewise, should you delegate any functions or tasks to subordinates, you must ensure that they are held accountable for properly performing them.  This requires that you properly explain your expectations to subordinates.

This is most easily done when performance parameters are objective, say telling an advertising executive she must retain her major accounts or else she’ll be replaced.  More often, performance parameters are more complex and involve subjective evaluations.  Regardless of the difficulties in defining these parameters, it must be done.  Otherwise, there is no way to hold a subordinate accountable for results.  It is for this reason that performance standards must be defined.  Often, detailed benchmarks, consistently and conscientiously tracked over time, will provide the most meaningful measures of performance.

Excerpted from Leadership on the Line – The Workbook, Ed Rehkopf, Clarity Publications, 2009

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club 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 club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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The Impact of Ego-Centric Leadership

Monday, April 11th, 2011

“Level 5 leaders display a compelling modesty, are self-effacing and understated.  In contrast, two thirds of the comparison companies had leaders with gargantuan personal egos that contributed to the demise or continued mediocrity of the company.”

Jim Collins, Good to Great, Why Some Companies Make the Leap  . . . and Others Don’t

Jim Collins says his research showed that gargantuan personal egos do not lead to corporate success.  In wondering why, here are a few observations:

Ego-centric individuals are all about themselves.  As such they have difficulty creating the relationships with followers that sustain the efforts of an organization.  While they may drive results by their force of will in the short-term, they often create resentments and divisions that harm the organization over the long haul.

Ego-centric leaders think they have all the answers which make it hard for them to listen to other opinions or to become educated beyond their own pre-conceived notions.  A lack of understanding of the true situation drastically hampers their chance for success.

Ego-centric people tend to attract and retain “Yes Men” while driving away “A” Players.  Strong subordinates expect to participate and be heard and will not long stay in a job where they are not given an opportunity to participate in decisions or make a difference.  As pointed out in Good to Great, when the ego-centric leader departs, there is not a strong successor waiting in the wings or any depth of talent in the senior management ranks.

Ego-centric leaders want all the credit for success and are more likely to blame others for failures.  Followers are quick to grasp this selfish behavior and have little respect for or desire to support such a leader.  Without the willing involvement of followers no endeavor will succeed for long.

Ego-centric people want to be star players and do not build teams.  In this modern age, enterprises and endeavors are far too complex for any one person to completely grasp.  Success can only come by assembling a team of talented individuals who understand all the relevant disciplines and can implement them effectively.

Ego-centric leaders are incapable of empowering others.  It’s just not part of their makeup to care enough about others to make the effort on their behalf.   Without empowered employees at all levels of the organization, problems will abound.

While an ego-centric leader can achieve spectacular success by force of will and personality, he will never “build the enduring greatness” of a Level 5 leader as posited by Jim Collins.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club 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 club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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The Value of a Super Service Employee

Monday, April 4th, 2011

For those of us who eat out with any regularity, we’ve all had the experience, unfortunately too rarely, of being waited on by what I call a “super server.”  From the moment she approaches the table we know we’re in for a treat.  Sparkling with personality, she overflows with knowledge about the food, beverages, and accompaniments.  She immediately sizes up our interest in engagement and calibrates her contacts accordingly.  She speaks with confidence and authority, questioning us regarding our preferences and without hesitation recommending what she thinks we’ll enjoy.  The best of the best can even unerringly take and serve orders without benefit of pen and dup pad – an ability that never ceases to amaze me.

Such extraordinary individuals are worth their weight in gold.  Not only do they serve with flair and expertise, but they sell, thereby increasing the average check, while making a distinctly favorable impression of competence and professionalism that brings diners back again and again.  This is true in restaurants and just as true in private clubs where members appreciate the recognition and special touches that a super server adds to the dining experience.

Far more frequently, we’ve experienced the norm of service – undertrained, inexperienced employees who may understand the basics of service, but little more.  Often lacking in knowledge, personality, and attitude, their service may meet minimum expectations but seldom inspire the diner to sample the extras – appetizers, desserts, wines, and specialty drinks – that the kitchen works so hard to create and which enhances the dining experience.  If truth be told, these employees are doing no service to their employers and in many cases are doing outright harm by driving customers away.

The often repeated maxim for employers “to hire for personality and train for technique and competence” encompasses a basic truth.  Attitude, personality, and engagement seem to be inborn skills and are difficult to teach.  While training can provide service skills and knowledge, thereby increasing a server’s confidence and maybe even engagement skills, the best service employees posses an indefinable quality that is difficult, if not impossible, to replicate.

Given the dearth of these extraordinary service employees, they should be recognized and compensated for the rare skills they possess.  Too often though, their presence on an employer’s staff is viewed as simple good fortune with little or no effort made to differentiate them from the common herd.  The result is that in short order they move on to greener pastures where their talents are more fully appreciated.  When this happens the loss to the establishment is often more than can be appreciated at the moment.  Not only has the employer lost a super server, but a money-maker, an ambassador, and an example for other less accomplished workers.

And everything said about food servers applies as much to super service employees in retail, activities, golf, tennis, administration, and other areas of the club.

So why don’t we recognize and reward super service employees for their special abilities.  I suspect it’s a combination of cost consciousness, an unwillingness to go beyond the status quo, and a fear of exchanging real costs for intangible benefits.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club 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 club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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