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As a private club leader, you’ve likely noticed a variety of shifts occurring in the industry today. Lifestyles are evolving and so is the way members are using their club. We touch on this topic often because the ability for private clubs to adapt and evolve with their members is imperative to their survival.
Cities lead by a wonderful example when they evolve; they constantly grow and enhance their offerings while still speaking to the unique culture of their respective neighborhoods—so it only makes sense that city clubs do the same. Over the years, we’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the most prestigious city clubs in North America, and through our strategic planning, facilities planning, and design efforts, we’ve discovered that city clubs often lead the way for how their golf and country club counterparts should respond to shifts in what members have come to expect from their “home away from home”.
Here, we delve into 10 city club trends that will impress even your most forward-looking member.
1. The Feature Kitchen
The kitchen is often coined the heart of the home – so why not make it the heart of your club? Using the kitchen as a focal point of the décor, a wine cellar, or whiskey tunnel creates drama and intertwines an otherwise uncharted territory into your aesthetic. Rather than keeping it hidden behind closed doors, bringing the kitchen “in view” invites members to get closer to their meal and beverage options. This concept creates excitement and brings members closer to the chef, ultimately putting a “face” to the meal.
2. Blending Casual and Formal Dining
The feature kitchen complements our next point; blending casual and formal dining. These dining venues can—and should—coexist. In this concept, the layout of dining tables and seating arrangements creates a separation between the two distinct areas within the space without a physical barrier. Incorporating upscale counter service, curated ingredients, and optional tasting menus enhances your casual dining space and allows for a smooth transition into the formal area. Pictured below, our recent work at Cosmos Club boasts a more casual walk-in-only bar and communal dining experience at the front with a more formal and intimate dining area toward the back. The multi-functionality of the space creates a warm and inviting atmosphere that seamlessly transitions from day to night.
3. Conceptual Menu Selection
A top quality yet approachable atmosphere shouldn’t stop at seating arrangements. Be sure to also offer menus with healthier food options and dining alternatives that speak to your new and improved dining facility. Additionally, house-made sodas, fresh juices and other alcohol-free drinks (often with health claims) add a nice touch—while at the same time increasing your check average. Some clubs are even incorporating ingredients that are grown on the Club premises and/or sourced locally—like the rooftop bee colony at Duquesne Club—which is a trend we’ve seen sweep across cities in recent years. Rather than going to the new farm-to-table restaurant a block away, invite your members to enjoy this type of offering right from their beloved club.
4. Integrating Technology
Now more than ever, technology is streamlining the F&B department, leading to more efficient processes and an elevated member experience overall. Technologies such as iPads, self-serve taps, and app-enabled delivery provide a new level of convenience and help improve member interactions. Additionally, tracking customer preferences gives your club a better understanding of member habits, delivering the data necessary to push club operations to the next level. Stay ahead of the curve and consider integrating some of these technologies into your offerings for a smoother and enhanced operation.
5. The Servery Concept
Today’s members are busy and live in a time-constrained society, which means they are frequently looking for convenience in their club’s offerings. Grab-n-go Turn-style facilities and serveries bolster convenience for your members by promoting faster meal options at breakfast and lunch. Rather than the traditional 60- to 90-minute formal meals that clubs have offered in the past, members can enjoy a quick meal in 30-45 minutes. Your club will see increased utilization be providing your members the option to swing by midday and return to the office before their hour lunch break is up. We had the pleasure of designing The Rendezvous Bar at the Union League Club of Chicago (pictured below) and their increased utilization helps speak to the success of this amenity.
6. Opportunities for Informal Interactions
Over the last several years, the industry has seen a shift to less-formal club atmospheres around the world. In city clubs specifically, we find that members are no longer joining solely to conduct business meetings —they’re coming to spend time with fellow members who have turned into dear friends. By incorporating more casual spaces to dine, as well as more opportunities to have informal casual interactions—like cross-talk bars, communal tables, and lounge areas with soft seating—you encourage that “home away from home” atmosphere that members desire. There are many options for these successful, informal interactions to take place. Implement the one that aligns best with the culture of your club and watch relationships flourish.
7. High-End Executive Business Lounge
And while there is often still business to attend to, members aren’t quite taking the same approach as in the past. Rather than utilizing the club solely for business lunches, members are also looking for a dedicated quiet space to make private calls or “plug-in” to check emails. Modifying cell phone policies and integrating high-end executive business lounges with small communal spaces, a coffee and tea station, and individual computer carrels will create a thoughtful “work from home” atmosphere for members within the club. Our recent work at Duquesne Club includes this amenity and has been incredibly popular with members. As shown below, the design even boasts understated mirror TVs so as not to detract from the overall ambiance.
8. Bringing the Outdoors In
No matter where you are in the country, members want to enjoy the outdoors. While city clubs don’t have rolling hills of green grass outside of their walls, they often have breathtaking views of the cityscape. So why not capture these views with floor-to-ceiling windows—or take this a step further and provide an area for members to actually step outside? Blend indoor amenities with Mother Nature by creating a rooftop bar, open-air courtyard, garden patio, or sidewalk café to appeal to members of all ages—day and night.
9. Implementing All-Day Rooms
All-day rooms incorporate a variety of uses and member interests into one space. They breathe new life into rooms that otherwise see little utilization. Activate those seldom used lobbies and living rooms by giving them dual-purpose. High-end espresso bars would make a great addition to your lobby, providing members with an area to grab coffee before work. Or create a small bar to encourage cocktail hour in the evening. And while you’re at, incorporate versatile furniture as well to promote the casual interactions we discussed earlier. Wasted space is, in fact, wasted space, so be creative in how to better utilize it. Those extra few feet are on your side—use them appropriately to provide your members with a one-of-a-kind experience they can’t find anywhere else.
10. Enhanced Street Presence
Historically, city clubs have been enclaves of privacy, but today’s city club should embrace the street level and become a visible member of the community. Your club is a staple in your members’ lives and should be for your city, too. A welcoming façade with windows to the energy and excitement inside will catch the eye of a passerby—and they could very well turn into a future member. Proudly display your club’s stunning architecture rather than hiding it behind shrubbery and turn your hidden gem into an acclaimed one.
In a city that provides unlimited amenities, it’s crucial to embrace change, evolve and push the envelope. Provide your members with an atmosphere that even the most experienced urbanite would admire, and they’ll continue coming back for years to come.
Looking to incorporate any of these elements in your club? Contact me and let me know how we can help!