Food and beverage operations provide a significant boost to the member experience, even though they’re often not a top priority. Whether it’s a quick bite after a workout or full meal for lunch, a complete slate of food options allows you to cater to a variety of members.
In the case of Stone Creek Club & Spa, this amenity is a big source of additional income. “Behind membership dues, food and beverage is our No. 1 revenue stream,” said Marvin Gresse, the club’s assistant general manager. “From an operational standpoint, it’s very profitable.”
While your food and beverage operations won’t make or break your club’s success, they can play a big role in taking your overall club experience to the next level.
“Our cafés aren’t the reason members join or leave,” said Preston Dishman, the director of food and beverage at VillaSport. “But we feel they are an important part of engaging the membership.”
Depending on the restraints of your facility and needs of your members, you’ll need to choose between emphasizing the restaurant experience or the “grab-and-go” items. Whatever you choose, visibility is critical.
“‘Out of sight, out of mind’ is not a good thing,” said Gresse. “Our [food and beverage area] is located near the front of the club, so as members are going to the fitness center or going to the pool, they see it. We definitely wanted to have it in the flow of traffic, and we did that in the design process.”
To ensure you’re maximizing your food and beverage operations, it’s important to understand what your members are looking for. And offering a diverse menu is a good starting point.
“A strong menu mix is good,” said Gresse. “Look at your clientele. Who do you have coming in? At our club, we see guests 6-weeks-old all the way up to the retired community, so we have healthy options and some nutritionist-recommended items.”
According to Dishman, more consumers are paying closer attention to their own nutrition, and looking for the easiest, quickest choices. “Diners are choosing convenience — more grab-and-go, ready-to-eat options — while being very discerning about the choices,” he said.
Since time is a precious resource for members, what they want from workouts and food options is summed up in one word: convenience. As a result, grab-and-go items have been growing in popularity at both Stone Creek and VillaSport.
“Our café manager has a really nice grab-and-go case,” said Gresse. “She keeps that stocked well with wraps, salads, boiled eggs, fresh fruit, yogurt parfaits and a lot of healthier stuff.”
To provide more convenience for members, VillaSport has been adjusting its food and beverage operations, and fitness classes, in almost parallel fashion. “We’ve found that in the past few years, the club experience is changing similarly to our restaurant experiences,” said Dishman. “Smaller portions of a variety of things is replacing the ‘entrée.’ And smoothies and non-soda beverages continue to be a very strong seller for our locations.”
Food and beverage operations can also provide a big boost in member acquisition. Having a diverse offering with full-service meals or grab-and-go items will impress prospective members of all ages.
“Somebody on a tour is pleasantly surprised when they see our food and beverage operation and the breadth of it,” said Gresse. “They’re not just seeing a smoothie stand or power bars at the front desk. When they see you have breakfast, lunch and dinner, a full kitchen, a full menu, all the grab-and-go items, and places for them to sit down with their family to have dinner, the breadth of offerings really hits home.”
The key to maximizing your food and beverage operations is to evaluate what your members are looking for. Providing that experience at your gym will make all the difference.
“Whether it’s a resort experience by one of our pools or fire pits, a recovery drink after an intense training session, or just a convenient food option for the way home, providing that experience is key,” said Dishman.