Dining Outside: How Your Club Can Extend a Catered In-Person Experience to a Catered Online Experience (and why this matters)

David Higgins
By David Higgins

During my five years in this industry, I have yet to find a club where Food and Beverage operations weren’t a source of enormous pride and effort. That makes sense, given how central F&B is to the member experience.

Like everything else in the club industry, though, F&B is undergoing its own series of changes. From expanded menu offerings (think: dishes that cater to families, to incorporating locally-sourced ingredients) to more expanded offerings (think: to-go orders), developments in F&B are exciting and indicate how the club industry is responding to the changing demands of members.

But change doesn’t come easily, nor does it offer a roadmap for how to adapt. So how are other clubs meeting the changing F&B interests of their members?

One of the underlying themes I’ve noticed is the shift towards mobile technology. You might get sick of hearing about mobile technology. Anymore for clubs, a successful F&B operation might very well depend on how they leverage mobile technology. Think of how often your members use their mobile devices to send emails, texts, conduct transactions, or make reservations. Members across age groups likely use their mobile phones on a regular basis if these numbers from Pew are any indication (Note: refer to the first chart titled % of U.S. adults who own the following devices).

So we’ve established that your members are likely using smartphones. Now, let’s probe a little further about your mobile technology strategy.

  • Can they engage with your club via their smartphone?
    Put another way, if your members go to your club’s website on their mobile device, is that website mobile friendly? Or do they have to constantly pinch the screen just to see content?
  • Does your club have a mobile app that can make this easy to do?
    There are a couple ways to avoid the above problem. One is a mobile-friendly site which, anymore, is standard for a website build. In addition to a mobile-friendly site, there are also mobile apps. With a mobile app, your members only login once, and can engage with the same website content they would see on the mobile website.
  • Can you send them push notifications, alerting them to specials at your club?
    If you don’t have a mobile app, then the answer is no. But why does this matter? Push notifications are a great way to send information to members that is of interest to them. For instance, have you ever received a push notification from a retailer you frequent, letting you know of an upcoming sale? If so, then think of how you can leverage this same functionality with your members.
  • Can they place F&B orders or make reservations via their phones?
    Given how much your members likely use mobile devices, if they aren’t making reservations at your club, then they are going to make reservations somewhere. And they’ll likely favor places where making a reservation is something they can do while they are on-the-go.

If you are still curious about the business case behind mobile technology and how it can enhance your member engagement and dining operations, I’d suggest you take a minute to read this case study from Skokie Country Club. I think it’s a useful read because it makes clear that when you give members a mobile option for placing food orders, they will run with it. More broadly, though, I’m sharing it because I think Skokie’s experience points to a broader theme: although technology is changing rapidly (and along with technology, so are the demands of your members), clubs can absolutely navigate this changing landscape.