It’s been a long day for John the General Manager. He arrived early this Friday morning and had a full day of meetings, including discussions with the architect regarding some planned renovations of the kitchen and locker rooms and a long session with the membership director over the upcoming fall membership campaign. Having stopped by the Lakeside Room to check on the Taylor’s rehearsal dinner, he congratulated the happy couple, said a few words to Mr. and Mrs. Taylor, and is now heading out the door to join his wife and son for a dinner before John Jr. leaves for college the next morning. The time is 7:15 p.m.
Marie, the Clubhouse Manager, assured that all catered events and the main dining room service is winding down, stops by the kitchen to let the Chef and Dining Room Manager know that she’s leaving. She’s got to be back at nine in the morning to meet with the Lanes and the Catering Director to begin discussing plans for their Octoberfest party. As she walks past the loading dock she notices a beat-up old car parked behind the dumpster. She heads to her car thinking she must remind the Chef about enforcing the no parking policy at the rear entrance. It’s now 9:30 p.m.
By 10:15 the banquet staff is well on its way to completing the breakdown of the two private dining rooms that were in use this night. Ever mindful of controlling her payroll cost, the Banquet Captain sends three servers home while directing the remaining two in the reset of the Founders Room for a Saturday morning breakfast. On his way through the kitchen one of the departing servers who missed his employee meal puts the butt of a tenderloin of beef from the Taylor party in his backpack. Another departing server helps himself to two bottles of Heineken sitting on a table outside the beer cooler.
At 10:45 Chef Rick leaves after giving final instructions to Tim, his evening Sous Chef, who is in the kitchen office preparing production schedules for Sunday Brunch. The new dishwasher who started this past week notes the Chef’s departure as he carries two bags of trash out to the dumpster. Upon returning he enters the unlocked meat cooler and places a case of NY strip steaks in a trash bag, covering it with empty cans for the recycling bin. He carries this back to the dishwasher area where he places it on the floor behind a stack of glass racks.
At 11:35 Marilyn, the Dining Room Manager, secures the various exterior doors in the dining room and lounge and passes through the kitchen announcing to Tim, “I’m outta here.” Tim says he’s not far behind. Before leaving Tim checks the storerooms and walk-ins to make sure they’re locked. He discovers the unlocked meat cooler and locks it, shaking his head at the carelessness of the line cooks. He notes the dishwasher is just finishing up at the pot sink and asks him how much more he’s got to do. “Just some trash to take out,” is the answer. Tim reminds him to turn the lights out and to pull the self-locking loading door tightly shut behind him as he leaves. It’s now 12:05 and Tim is looking forward to stopping at O’Hanlon’s on his way home.
At 12:30 the night watchman makes his second round and discovers a back door to the pro shop unlatched and notes it in his security log. This is the second time this month he’s found the same door unsecured. In the meantime, at the other end of the clubhouse, the dishwasher loads his car by the dumpster with the case of steaks and two bottles of Glenfiddich he pilfered earlier from the unlocked liquor vault.
This fictional tale or some variation of it is an all-too-common scenario in private clubs. By their very design clubhouses have a large number of exterior doors providing convenient member access to outside spaces and safe egress in case of an emergency. While many of these doors have panic bars and are self-closing, they may be in remote locations and are easily left ajar. Unless a club has a security system with electronic door contacts wired to a conveniently-monitored alarm panel, some responsible individual must check every door before leaving.
Many clubs have limited security monitoring devices and even fewer bear the expense of a night watchman or security service. While cameras may be employed in key areas, the prevailing approach to protecting the assets of the club seems to be to trust all employees to do the right thing. This is a major mistake that invites all kinds of trouble. As a professor in hotel school told the class many years ago, “Respect everyone, but trust no one!”
Given that every club is different in age, amenities/facilities, setting/site layout, and investment in security systems, here are some basic things that every club should consider:
- A rigidly-enforced policy that nothing is to be removed from the club. This policy must include a warning that bags are subject to search at any time. All managers must understand the legal ramifications of such a policy and how to go about enforcing it properly.
- A rigidly-enforced policy of which doors employees must use to enter and exit the club.
- A rigidly-enforced policy of employee parking, specifying that no employee vehicles may be parked at or near the employee entrances, dumpsters, or loading dock.
- All policies spelled out in an employee handbook which contains an acknowledgement statement that employees have read and understand the policies, a signed copy of which is placed in each employee’s personnel file.
- A review of all sensitive security areas of the club – food and beverage storerooms, pro shops, golf cart and bag storage areas, snack bars, activity centers and aquatics areas, golf course maintenance facility, location and use of all exterior doors, employee entrances, and the loading dock and dumpster area.
- A review of key control policies and plans, as well as a determination of who has what keys. Such policies must include procedures for reporting and handling lost keys and the security planning and responsibility for early morning and late night access needs.
- Written opening and closing procedures with assigned responsibilities. Use of signed checklists by opening and closing personnel, reviewed daily and double checked by management. Keep in mind that W. Edwards Deming said, “Divided responsibility means that nobody is responsible.” In other words when everyone is responsible, no one is!
- Prepare a written security plan for all the club’s facilities. Investigate costs and make cost/benefit decisions on cameras and access keypads for high-risk areas and employee entrances. Such devices will allow review of access and aid in investigating losses.
- A policy of fully prosecuting any employee caught pilfering or stealing club assets including retail and food and beverage inventories.
- Periodic covert surveillance of employee entrances, particularly late at night. Food and beverage managers, including kitchen managers/chefs should be given this duty with specific instructions to monitor closing activity on a periodic basis. An alternative is to contract out this requirement to a security company, though having club managers do it is far more effective in that they have a better understanding of the operations and knowledge of individual employee duties.
- Ongoing reminders and review of security policies and procedures at weekly managers’ staff meetings to continually remind all managers of security requirements.
The security of the club and its assets is a central responsibility of management and must be attended to in a formal and disciplined way. Anything less invites trouble – and not just at closing time!
Thanks and have a great day!
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.
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