Basic Service Issues in Private Clubs

There are certain basic service issues common to most clubs.

  • Maintain Decorum.  Clubs typically develop an atmosphere that is a reflection of its membership.  Whether formal or casual, the attitudes and behaviors of members will establish an appropriate decorum for the club in general and various areas of the club in particular.  Employees need to be aware of and maintain this decorum.
  • Avoid Familiarity.  Many members live a more casual, relaxed lifestyle and they naturally carry this casualness into their interactions with club employees.  Some members ask employees to call them by their first names and enjoy joking and exchanging banter with employees.  This, however, can create a potential minefield for employees.
  • Avoid Sensitive Topics and Language.  Club employees should always avoid engaging in or responding to conversations with members on sensitive or controversial subjects such as religion, politics, discussions of other members, and ethnic or off-colored jokes.
  • Enforce Club Rules.  Each club has rules and regulations for its members to follow such as dress code, proper golf course etiquette, ready play, prohibition of carrying coolers on the golf course or in the pool areas, etc.  Unfortunately, when members do not follow the rules, it is up to employees to enforce them.  Often the infraction is unintentional and the member simply needs a reminder.  In some cases it may be best to make an exception in the immediate case to avoid embarrassment, but the member should always be educated in the process to avoid future problems.  When informing members of a rules violation, it is always helpful to offer an alternative to the member, for instance, seating inappropriately dressed members in the bar to eat instead of the dining room.
  • Offer Special Touches.  There are small, yet special touches that demonstrate the club’s commitment to service.  Special touches should be devised and included in all areas of the operation.
  • Meet Service Requests.  As an operation that caters to the needs and desires of its members, clubs will make every effort to meet the special requests of its members.  Going the extra mile to provide service will always impress members and their guests.
  • Satisfy High Maintenance Members.  Employees should understand that there will always be ‘high maintenance’ members.  Satisfying their higher expectations is part of the cost of doing business and the ultimate challenge of service.  So employees should not dwell on the difficult few; rather, they must recognize each request or complaint as legitimate and focus on the solution.
  • Know your Facility.  Every dining room has good seats and bad seats.  The good seats are near the fireplace in winter, overlooking the verandah in summer, or a booth for quiet, intimate dining.  Conversely, there are bad tables under air conditioning vents, near pantry and exterior doors, or near a large party of young children.  You and your employees should be aware of the good, the bad, and the ugly of the club and seat members accordingly
  • Know Member Names.  Members want to be recognized and acknowledged at their club.  These are among the main reasons people join clubs.  Strive to learn their last names and address them as Mr., Mrs. Ms., etc., every opportunity you can.
  • Know Member Habits.  You and your employees should make every effort to learn the habits of members, particularly those who use club frequently.  Whether it’s Dr. Jones liking his martinis dry and straight up or Mrs. Smith’s inability to tolerate dairy products or Mr. Martin always having a Courvoisier after his meal, these tidbits of information, when followed up on by employees, provide a higher level of service and a personal touch that is always appreciated by the member.
  • Reinforce Club Value.  It is through the daily casual conversation with members that you have the ability to build value. Most members pay dues monthly or quarterly, so the club must reinforce to them that their money is well spent.  Talk about the upcoming club activities and events, talk about an exciting new offering in the dining room, talk about items of interest that will help them see the benefits of being a member at their club.
  • Maintain Club Appeal.  One way to ensure that the club is appealing to members is to pretend you are the member.  Each time you arrive to work, walk into the club facility as if you were a new member or were entertaining guests.  Walk around the clubhouse, view the dining rooms and bar area, take a look in the bathrooms; all the time acting as if you have never set foot on the premises.  Look from top to bottom and see if you discover something that is out of place, dirty, or in need of repair.  Then take action to fix it.
  • Establish WOW Factors.  We must all recognize that what excites and astounds today will be seen as old news tomorrow.  In order for the club and its employees to continually provide the unexpected service touches that wow our members, we must challenge ourselves to brainstorm and plan for ways to continually impress.  We cannot leave it to chance.

Make sure you and your employees are aware of these issues and know how to act/respond in all circumstances.

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 managers throughout the country and around the world.

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