25 Feb

Is the Price too High?

The Business of Weddings v. The Member Experience

Are you frequently asking your members to use side or back entrances so they don’t interrupt non-member wedding receptions?  Closing primary dining spaces? Rolling out the red carpet for people who don’t pay dues, who don’t finance club improvements?  Exhausting your staff while your members get the second shift?


Revenue generation versus the sanctity of the member relationship — just where is the line? Clubs seeking additional sources of the former may be at risk of permanently damaging the latter.  The business of renting themselves out for non-member wedding events is getting a second look by many in the club industry.

Russ Conde, co-founder and chief operating officer of Club Benchmarking, says his data don’t support the rationale for hosting these non-member events. “They’re not helping equalize the food & beverage balance sheet,” he says, pointing out that, in fact, they’re often draining resources and other club assets. Certainly, that financial reality can likely only be measured on a club-by-club basis, but Conde makes but one of many arguments we hear against these forms of revenue generation. “Clubs should look at alternative, less invasive ways of generating cash — like alternative pricing strategies and increasing member events,” he says.

Chambers Executive Vice President Skip Avery believes that supplemental revenue can help with cash flow, but cautions that it depends on the culture and physical environment of the club. Can you, for instance, host large events without shutting your (paying) members out?  Three Carpenter, formerly general manager of Hillwood Country Club in Nashville agrees: “A strategically designed club has built-in components that ultimately help alleviate significant changes to members’ day-to-day club experience.

Club industry consultant Mitch Stump suggests that non-member events can force clubs to take their “eye off the ball” — that “ball” being their undivided attention paid to the very people who justify and support — their existence: members. The same members who foot the bill to pay for the facilities that now focus on parties for…other people? Hmmm.

What’s your perspective? Non-member weddings — a necessary evil or simply unnecessary?  Weigh in below!

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