Excellence In Club Management Rising Star Award Winner: Justin Kolanz

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Assistant GM Justin Kolanz took the lead in creating a service culture that helped to nearly double a la carte revenues at The Country Club—and earned him Rising Star recognition through the Excellence in Club Management awards.

A good coach will make his players see what they can be, rather than what they are. And that’s just what Justin Kolanz, the 2010 Rising Star Award recipient of the Excellence in Club Management (ECM) Awards co-sponsored by the McMahon Group and Club & Resort Business, has been doing with his fellow staff members since he came to The Country Club in Pepper Pike, Ohio, six years ago.

Kolanz started as Country’s Food & Beverage Manager as the club was coming off a substantial remodel. Service in the dining rooms was friendly, but not up to the standards members were experiencing elsewhere.

With a fresh set of eyes, Kolanz saw the potential in Country’s dining operation and set about rewriting the service standard.

“We needed to create a service culture,” says Kolanz. Using his commercial restaurant background, he developed a service aptitude test to help identify high-performing candidates during the hiring process who were likely to succeed in Country’s system. Once hired, employees undergo an extensive training program that emphasizes menu knowledge, service techniques and club hospitality before they are allowed to serve a table on their own. At the end of this training period, servers must pass a service examination and show proficiency in all areas of their training.

Achievements at The Country Club with Justin Kolanz’s Involvement/Direction

  • Food and beverage revenue has risen steadily, with 2011 tracking a 25% increase over 2010; quality of service in the dining rooms has improved; expanded wine program offers more wines by the glass and a new Captain’s List with value-oriented unique wines priced aggressively.
  • Expanded fitness offerings by bringing in outside fitness classes; revitalized swim program.
  • Expanded the scope of junior activities and camps and doubled junior participation.
  • Website redevelopment and improved overall club communications.
  • Expanded and enhanced club events overall, creating more of a family-friendly atmosphere.

“What the servers put into it, they get out of it because how they score ultimately determines their pay,” says Kolanz. He also established a quarterly variable commission rate for dining-room staff, based on meeting certain sales targets each quarter, that has focused everyone on ways to increase revenue as a team.

Country’s General Manager, Robert C. Josey, CCM, attests that Kolanz’ hard work has paid off. “There is a new energy level in our dining rooms and our members have rediscovered the joys of dining at Country,” he says, adding that annual a la carte food revenue per member has increased from $605 to $1,100 during Kolanz’ tenure.

Making Key Hires

Ask Kolanz about his biggest contributions at Country, and he’ll tell you it doesn’t have much to do with him, but everything to do with the team.

After one year, Kolanz was promoted to Assistant General Manager. In this role, he’s not only challenged the staff to excel, but has set an example for other department heads and encouraged them to reach higher, too. As Assistant GM, Kolanz has also been able to identify needed areas of improvement.

For example, Country has a 3,000-sq, ft. fitness center, but does not employ a fitness director. With 559 total members, many of whom use the fitness center regularly, Kolanz thought it might be worthwhile to bring in several outside fitness instructors to offer personal training and fitness classes. The services, marketed through the club’s website, have been very successful with members.

Kolanz was also instrumental in hiring a new Swimming Pool Director/Swim Team Coach and helping to revitalize the swimming program. And he lobbied to hire a Junior Activities Coordinator to increase the scope of junior programs during the summer. “[By creating] this new position, junior participation more than doubled and the increase in revenues offset the cost of the new staff person,” notes Josey.

Ideas implemented successfully at The Country Club

  • Comprehensive hiring and training program for service staff.
  • Enhanced schedule of events for Friday Family Nights on the Patio, with different activities for kids to enjoy along with a buffet for the entire family, cooking classes, wine dinners, lecture series, movie nights, golf course campouts, Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments and family paintball.

Kolanz’ drive and enthusiasm extends beyond the club. He joined the Club Managers Association of America  (CMAA) in November 2006 and earned Active status the following year. For the past two years, he has served as the Director of CMAA’s Greater Cleveland Chapter and chaired its Membership Committee and Technology Committee. He is well on the way to obtaining his CCM designation and participates in the Kent State University Hospitality Student Mentorship Program.

Most fittingly, Kolanz is also a soccer and pole vault coach. “He has a passion for quality and has been able to instill that passion in his staff as only the best leaders can do,” says Josey.