Anticipating Member Needs
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In many ways, a great private club is much like a great hotel. It has a distinct sense of place, creates a feeling of warmth and community, and provides valuable services that enhance the lives of its guests or members. Keeping this in mind, it is not surprising that private clubs have often looked to the hotel industry for inspiration.
Though hotels and private clubs face very different challenges in their respective industries, the ways they cater to today’s guest (or member) regularly intersect. Both hotels and private clubs must create a “home away from home” experience to bring value. In order to accomplish this, their amenities and design must continuously evolve in the face of today’s ever-changing, fast-paced world. Here are a few ways that hotels have (or could) influence the private clubs of tomorrow.
Creating a Communal Lobby
For many years, private club designers have stood by a standard entrance staple: the living room. This space—reminiscent of a residential sitting room—creates an initial “homey” feeling that clubs should strive for, but doesn’t necessarily accomplish much outside of a first impression. Clubs often spend significant resources to achieve this sense of arrival upon entering the clubhouse, but most of the member experience is typically spent in other areas of the clubhouse
Rather than allocating valuable square footage to an unutilized space, many private clubs are turning to hotels and other hospitality establishments for inspiration. Aside from defining the atmosphere of a space, hotel lobbies are often designed to be multi-use areas that can serve a number of different purposes. “Hotel lobbies are crafted in a way that not only welcomes guests, but also encourages them to linger,” says Megan Hochman, Chambers’ director of interior design – Washington, DC. She adds, “Private clubs can simulate this feeling in their own main entries and foyers by offering communal-style seating and other functions that invite members to lounge and connect with fellow members.” Some clubs even offer food and drink service in their lobbies to maximize member enjoyment—while boosting F&B revenue potential.
Elevating F&B Offerings
For the first time in history, Americans are spending more money on dining at restaurants than on groceries, according to the USDA (2016). However, rising demand for a great dining experience—particularly “fast casual” style dining—has also created a more competitive marketplace for restaurants. In short—private club members have more restaurant options than ever before. To come out on top in this battle for member attention, private clubs are taking cues from hotels by elevating their F&B offerings.
As restaurant dining becomes the norm, private club members are demanding broader and more sophisticated menus. Like hotel restaurants, private club F&B departments must keep their fingers on the pulse of culinary trends and adapt their menus accordingly. For example, many clubs have adopted wide craft brewery selections to keep pace with growing demand. Other clubs have invested in experienced mixologists who can offer rotating menus of refined craft cocktails, keeping the bar menu fresh and on-trend.
Like hotels, some clubs have even adopted farm-to-table style menus that allow them to satisfy member demand while also leveraging their position in the community to source locally (and sometimes even grow food on-site). By embracing a trend-based approach to their F&B offerings like hotels have, private club F&B departments can make themselves a greater contender in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace.
Embracing the “Grab N’ Go” Lifestyle
Aside from incorporating the latest culinary trends into their menus, private clubs are also looking to hotels when it comes to adapting their F&B offerings to respond to the demands of the accelerated lifestyle of today’s average club member. With takeout and food delivery driving the restaurant market in 2017, marketplace cafés and grab n’ go stations are slowly becoming a staple in high end hotels and private clubs alike. These convenient facilities may allow members to easily access snacks and takeout meals for life on-the-go—without forgoing style.
The Marriott’s “Central Pantry” creates a high-end grab n’ go experience, working in partnership with local vendors to offer guests a wide range of options that also reinforce a sense of place. While not exactly traditional, these hyper casual dining experiences are well-suited to private clubs with amenities centered around golf and recreation. Members can easily grab healthy sandwiches and wraps or a quick breakfast before heading out for a game of 18 holes. In fact, adding these grab n’ go amenities can create a more communal golfing experience as a whole.
Offering Concierge Services
Hotels have always incorporated concierge-like services into their repertoire of amenities, but these kinds of services have become even more valuable as people’s day-to-day lives become increasingly busier. Some clubs have developed their own concierge-like offerings that enhance the lives of their members, both within and outside of their time at the club. Some of these services include at-home butler or cleaning services, personal shopping services, event planning, dry cleaning, villa and casita rentals for guests, and more.
Though these services have traditionally been associated with hotels, they are arguably even more valuable in a private club setting. “Unlike hotels, where guests can only utilize these services for a short amount of time,” says Hochman, “private clubs can offer their members these life-enhancing services year-round.” These bells and whistles add a sophisticated element of convenience for members, making the club all the more relevant to their daily lives and reinforcing the overall value of their membership.
Adapting Next-Level Technology
It’s no secret that personalized service is beloved by hotel guests and club members alike. After all, people are more likely to see value in their club membership or hotel stay if they feel personally connected to the place and the people who work there. However, many hotels are taking personalization to the next level with the help of cutting edge technologies. In late 2016, Hilton stationed Connie—a customer-facing robot concierge working in collaboration with IBM—in the reception area of their McLean, Virginia location to interact with guests. Connie supports the reception staff by helping answer basic questions from guests about local attractions, dining, and hotel amenities.
Private clubs can easily adapt this trend to enhance their concierge services. Of course, this doesn’t mean that all clubs should replace their employees with robots. Instead, clubs can incorporate simpler forms of personalization through tools like social media chatbots, automated text message notifications, and personalized online portals that can cater to specific member needs. Even these simple tools can help enhance connectivity and make members feel more attached to their club.
The message? Inspiration can be found anywhere—and nearly everything can be adapted. If you see something you feel may be beneficial to your club, but worry it may be too “out of the box,” bring it up at your next leadership meeting! These conversations can spark other ideas or give light to new adaptations that truly push the boundaries to help private clubs evolve to meet new-age demands.
How have hotel and other hospitality establishments influenced your club’s offerings? What hospitality trends would you like to see more private clubs embrace?