It's safe to say that Rich Warren knows the ins and outs of the hospitality industry. After all, he's been helping hoteliers and private clubs run better for close to 20 years.

He quadrupled the number of hotels and clubs he was able to help as Vice President of Business Development at BuyEfficient. He helped private clubs operate more efficiently as Vice President at Avendra Clubs. To say the least, he's long been invested in helping the hospitality industry step up their game.

"In my career, it's always been about ensuring customers get the best pricing, building trust, and receiving quality assurance. It's always been imperative that food safety protocols were in place all the way through the supply chain even way before the COVID-19 outbreak happened," he says of his long-term commitment to helping clubs and hotels serve the best quality food to their guests and members. "For any purchasing company I worked for weren't afraid to eliminate—or even not sign—any supplier that didn't meet our quality assurance criteria."

Being the owner of several Anytime Fitness clubs over the past decade has helped round out his experience.

Today, Rich—otherwise known as @clubsguy on Instagram—agreed to sit down and give us his insights on the current status of private clubs. We'll also explore some of the trends he's seeing emerge.
COVID-19 Accelerates Change
While private clubs did see a 34.6% median year-over-year decrease in non-dues revenue, many private clubs have found an opportunity to recoup lost revenues and offer greater service to their members through take-out dining.

Rich says, "A leading golf club in Baltimore was doing $5 million in take-out a month before their restaurants could open. They'd never done that volume before, so they really had to pivot and develop a system for take-out.

Now that people are coming back in, they have to continue to offer take-out because members expect it now. People may not always eat at their club or want to eat out, but they want to have the option to order food from a chef they know and trust, and take it home to enjoy."
This move has been effective across the board, but it's had an even greater impact in city and lifestyle clubs that don't offer golf. Those clubs saw a greater decrease in non-due revenue than clubs with a golf offering did.

Even in golf clubs, Rich says, "No longer is the golf course just the center attraction. It's really all about providing a place that the family can go to do various different activities, all within the safety and confines of the club."

Clubs are meeting these needs by diversifying their offerings. Many now offer tennis, pickle ball, all-encompassing fitness centers with personal training and group fitness, teen activities, and even camps for kids. Some clubs have even started adding an array of new and upscale spa services.
A New Way To Serve Members
Clubs are also expanding their food offerings, whether that's by adding breakfast to their menus or securing a range of high-quality, locally crafted beers, wines, and spirits to serve their most discerning members.

"In some cases, like at the chic Fitler Club in downtown Philadelphia, clubs are adding grab-and-go markets where members can order everything from coffee to fresh fruit and snacks to pre-made fresh sandwiches that were actually made at the club by its culinary team that day. All the items are barcoded so they can be easily tied to members' monthly food and beverage bill. This offers members new options without adding labor costs," Rich says.

He says that golf clubs are also adding additional amenities that will be unique to them, like 2-3 places along the golf course where golfers can stop for quality refreshments and some clubs offer food delivery right to the players' golf carts.

"One of the problems with golf is that, historically, everyone would stop at the grill on the 9th hole, which can really slow up play. Clubs are trying to add ways for people to order ahead to combat this. They can also benefit from adding snack kiosks at the 6th and 12th holes so people can get a beverage or something to eat without stopping play," Rich explains.

According to Rich, these kiosks not only speed up play, but they also help drive ancillary revenue on the course. As importantly, they add to the convenience and overall experience for the members, which he says is often more important to the clubs than the extra revenue stream.

"The number of services a club can offer its members helps them differentiate and compete with other clubs for members."
The number of services a club can offer its members helps them differentiate and compete with other clubs for members.
Rich Warren
Another option clubs are using to expand their services to their customers is similar to the fast-casual F&B concept.

As they become more focused on becoming a gathering hub for the entire family, adding options that allow members to order and eat quickly before splitting up for different activities is going to become increasingly more important. Many of these new fast-casual dining experiences are located near central family gathering places like the pool, fitness center, or lounge.

Rich says, "In the warm months, families can spend their entire day out at the pool, starting with breakfast sandwiches or wraps, and continuing on through lunch, and so on. They never have to go into a restaurant to order their food and beverages."

These options also give parents a way to allow older children to get a meal while the parents are golfing or at the gym.

Rich sees affordable high-quality products and solutions like Donna Italia pizza and high-end coffee drinks as part of the future of continuously enhancing the member experience.
Clubs are going to be looking for more convenient ways to be able to meet their members, with little labor costs.
Rich Warren
"Clubs are going to be looking for more convenient ways to be able to meet their members, with little labor costs."

He states that a big factor in what makes these subscription products and services work for clubs is by delivering consistent quality in a shorter amount of time. For example, the Donna Italia solution allows clubs to bake up a fresh, hot pizza in only three minutes without upfront investments.

These services allow clubs to expand their offerings for their guests, while freeing the chef up to focus on preparing the clubs restaurant dinners, banquets, and special events.

No matter what, Rich believes that clubs should be optimistic about opportunities post-COVID. "If anything, COVID-19 has revived the game of golf. Before COVID, the numbers of rounds played in the United States had been dwindling for the past ten years. During this past summer and fallI don't think I could find an available tee time anywhere in Maryland, especially on days when the weather is really nice."
Next Actions:
Rich Warren knows the private club world, and can help your club grow. If you're looking for more ways to stay on top of the trends at your club through COVID-19 and beyond, follow @clubsguy on Instagram.

If you're ready to learn about serving fresh-baked pizza to your guests, first learn more about the benefits of a Donna Italia pizza subscription. Then sign up for a one-on-one consultation for your club.

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