The Beatles were right: All you need is love. We have plenty of love in the private club business. Love for our clubs, our coworkers, vendors and certainly our members and their families. Throughout my career as a General Manager, I looked forward to working at my club each day. Now, I value the relationships I built through my club career and my CMAA associations. Today, being in the Executive Search business, I have recently observed a lack of love for many Food and Beverage Directors, Chefs, and even the General Managers they report to. I have never seen as much turnover “all-at-once” in the F&B departments of great clubs.
During the pandemic, many clubs had to make the decision to retain or furlough their F&B staff. The trade publications were filled with wonderful stories about how F&B departments stepped up and out of their comfort zone to provide club members with new and expanded services. The GM, and especially the F&B staff, were applauded, recognized, and celebrated. One year later, the same people are losing their jobs or have become unhappy after they have performed so magnificently. Sometimes they resign, are terminated or are seeking our help finding a new position. So, what’s changed?
There are two simple explanations that are no surprise to leaders in the industry:
1. Increased Utilization
Members continued to pay their dues, capital charges, and fees while not being able to use the club. Although there were alternative F&B services available at most clubs, members are making up for lost time but using the club now more than ever. While utilization is up, membership waitlists are increasing, and demand for service is higher, most clubs have not been able to staff sufficiently to meet these demands.
2. Inability to Hire
The lack of applicants for F&B positions has caused stress within the department. It can be described as a national epidemic for the hospitality industry. Even outside of the private club industry, hospitality staff applications have been to a minimum, and the F&B department seems to take the brunt of the criticism. In talking with managers around the country, their clubs are exceeding revenue goals (a good thing of course), but the lack of staff is resulting in member complaints, frustration in management and the wearing out staff who are trying to do their best without much love through feedback. How many times each night or the next morning do you have to say you’re sorry or apologize for the member experience? During the process, remember to communicate with your membership and let them know which steps you’re taking to find a solution to the hiring issue in a hope to allow them to adjust their expectations.
When I sit with a club Board or Search Committee, I frequently hear that F&B is their biggest concern. They need someone who can make a positive impact in the dining rooms right away. They rarely mention any other areas of concern outside of the F&B department.
So, how do we show some love to our F&B team and show our appreciation to new and existing employees? Some departments have been trying:
The General Manager of a club recently shared that they were hiring family of current employees and members, including children and grandchildren. While most clubs make a rule not to do so due to conflict of interest, this manager urged her Board to relax that family rule and let her hire from those previously restricted groups. It is fixing the immediate problem of hiring, and in the meantime, management is working to avoid conflict of interest issues that could potentially arise and not relying on a “what-if” question. Just as the F&B staff ran operations differently and successfully, during the pandemic, it’s time we combine all human capital resources of the club to show our F&B team that they too deserve and receive love for their efforts.
We have all been trained to concentrate on the member experience…maybe these times tell us to shift some of that concern to employee experience. And to do so, in the wise words of the Beatles…all you need is love!
About the Author
Ned Welc, CCM, CCE has been a general manager of private clubs in Ohio and Florida for many years. As a leading expert on private club mergers and acquisitions, Ned offers a full range of private club management and operational consulting services, including improving staff training and team building. In addition, he conducts a variety of seminars for club professionals on M+A, club industry trends, and operational management strategies such as improving organizational health and management and board retreats. In addition to his role as a Principal with GSI Executive Search, Ned is an adjunct professor of the Hospitality Management School at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. You can reach Ned at 440-796-7922 or firstname.lastname@example.org.