Today’s dining room designs combine casual comfort with classic, upscale touches, to create flexible settings that satisfy all member and guest demands.
Distinctive dining room design now plays a key role in attracting members and guests to eat in club and resort settings. For both casual and formal presentations, providing the right environment is critical to setting the stage for a memorable dining experience. And “design” encompasses much more than just a room’s dimensions; it also extends to how touches like flourescent lights, formica tables and paper-lined baskets used as plates can set an entirely different mood from linen tablecloths, plush, cushioned seats, and bone china.
SUMMING IT UP
• Utilizing multiple dining venues requires strategic planning, to ensure that formats don’t compete with one another.
Properly integrating a dining concept—be it steakhouse, bistro or burger joint—with other key design elements and considerations is important to not only facilitate seamless operations, but also to bring members and guests back again and again.
“Dining and social activities are what elevate a facility from a golf club to a full-service country club,” says Larry Yount, General Manager of the Pine Island Country Club in Charlotte, N.C. “Dining and social activities are also extremely important for connecting the entire family to the club.”
Catering to the family-friendly trend, clubs and resorts are quickly developing new dining concepts and designs that can capture more casual business, while still retaining an elegant way to provide fine dining. The results are dynamic dining rooms that are rich in tone and texture, and that offer the right complements to the various menus options.
Doing Double Duty
Determining all that members and guests want is the first step in successfully designing today’s dining spaces. When Pine Island CC underwent a $10 million renovation a few years ago, club ownership and management recognized that the club was moving away from formal, structured dining to a casual, family-oriented atmosphere. At the same time, the club still needed a space for formal dining events and banquets.
To serve both needs, the club built the Member Grille and a banquet facility. The Member Grille serves as the main member dining area, while the banquet facility is used for special events. The Member Grille is best described as “country club casual,” with versatile wooden tables and chairs that blend with the restaurant’s African mahogany bar. “The tables have the ability to stand alone without linen, but in the evening we can certainly put linens on them for more upscale dining,” says Yount.
The color scheme in the Member Grille centers on earth tones to maintain warmth, while providing a neutral canvas that can be dressed up to complement different events, holidays and seasons. “The idea is to add color through artwork, centerpieces, flowers and linens,” Yount says.
While casual is key at Pine Island CC, the club still offers special dining events for members looking for an upscale evening at the club. For these events, the club utilizes the rotunda—a glass-encased, rounded room in the banquet facility.
Using air walls to close off the space, the rotunda can seat from 50 to 60 people. The club uses it for quarterly wine dinners as well as chef’s table dinners. “From an architectural standpoint, the rotunda is clearly the most visibly striking feature of the clubhouse and, without a doubt, our most elegant setting,” says Yount.
Raising—and Lowering—the Bars
DuPont Country Club, in Wilmington, Del., offers members a wide selection of dining options. They can enjoy informal meals in the Legends Bar & Grille; outdoor dining on a large veranda overlooking the golf course; a quick bite in the Marketplace; and formal dining in the upscale Wedgewood Room.
The Legends area is the most popular venue. The top design priorities here were to make it comfortable and inviting. Much of the activity in this area revolves around the centrally located bar, which is set up with high-top cocktail tables. Off the bar is a grille room with televisions, built-in wood shelving, a stone fireplace and oversized chairs set up around a coffee table. On the other side of the bar is a more traditional dining room with low-top tables.
In total, the Legends area offers three to four different seating styles. “Sometimes we have parents at the high-tops and they’ll put kids at a low-top table that’s close enough so they can see them, but still have adult conversation at the bar,” says Steve Matlaga, CCM, General Manager/COO.
“We have to make sure we know who our members are, what they like and how to take care of them,” says Matlaga of DuPont’s overall approach. “Anyone can create reasonable products, but if we create a good environment and the staff helps to build relationships that create an experience, that gives us a competitive advantage.”
|DuPont Country Club (Wilmington, Del.)
Dining Venues: Legends Bar & Grille, outdoor veranda, Marketplace, Wedgewood Room, Starter Shack
“By creating a more casual environment, it makes people more comfortable here.”
—Steve Matlaga, General Manager
Of course, with multiple dining options, there is a risk of venues competing with one another. This was at the top of management’s mind in planning the $15 million renovation at The Fountains Country Club in Lake Worth, Fla. Prior to the renovation, the club utilized a single member dining room for both formal and informal dining. However, when the club’s renovation is complete later this year, it will have two separate dining venues—the Pub and the Main Dining Room.
The Pub, which opened in December 2009, is a 6,000-sq. ft., 160-seat, informal dining facility. The room is adorned with mahogany wood finishes and high-backed, fabric-covered seating. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide natural light along with sweeping views of the 18th hole of the West Golf Course. “The Pub offers a departure from a formal environment,” says Gail E. King, Sales & Marketing Director.
The Main Dining Room, which will open later this year, will be used for special member events, weddings, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, and corporate meetings. The Main Dining Room will also be used for member dining in season, when the club needs more space to accommodate more diners.
Utilizing these two spaces in different ways will require savvy planning in the kitchen. “From an operational standpoint, we don’t want to start offering lunch in both venues, because that would split our members 50-50 and we’d need more staff,” says King. “Our operations managers will be reviewing all of the historical data they have about who dines where, and when.”
Blurring the Lines
Another popular trend affecting design approaches is the unique private dining experience offered by Chef’s Table formats. When the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa in Paradise Valley, Ariz., recently renovated its kitchen, the resort added Table 12, a private dining room that opens up to the front line of the kitchen.
“Table 12 is an interactive experience between the chef and the 12 people in the room,” says Matt Collins, Director of Food and Beverage Services. “It is an eight-course chef’s tasting paired with wines.”
Wenge Wood cabinets and macassar ebony countertops create a rich and intimate backdrop for the space. A chef’s island sits in front of the granite-topped table, which seats 12 people in high-backed chairs. The main event, however, sits just past the glass doors leading to the kitchen.
“[The diners] are watching it happen,” says Collins. “The sliding glass doors open, and their entrees are brought in. Then the chef comes out and explains each course.”
Table 12 has allowed the resort to accommodate guests looking for a unique private dinner. “The ability to be part of the action definitely expands any kind of dining experience,” says Collins. “It is also an added sales bonus, and an incentive to book at our resort.”
The Swiss Army Knife of Kitchens
Since the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa in Paradise Valley, Ariz., tripled the size of its kitchen, its food and beverage team has been able to handle everyday dining, private parties and special events all at the same time.
To renovate the outdated kitchen, the space was completely gutted. This allowed equipment to be added and repositioned, to create an improved operational flow. New additions included a back line, a marble-topped pastry/bakery shop, an expanded dishwashing area, and an additional prep kitchen.
“On any given night, these additions have given us the ability to operate the main restaurant off the front line of the kitchen; utilize the prep kitchen to do a private party for up to 60 people in the Praying Monk patio; and still do a Table 12 dinner,” says Matt Collins, Director of Food and Beverage Services.