For longer parts of the day and throughout more of the year, patios and outdoor dining venues are providing vibrant gathering areas for members and guests.
There’s something about the great outdoors that brings people together. Outdoor patios and dining venues are natural gathering spaces that have quickly become must-have amenities at club and resort properties. These al fresco options provide members and guests with the casual comfort they are looking for, while also proving to be significant revenue producers.
“The allure of being outside and comfortable is important these days,” says John Trudeau, Director of Operations at Riviera Palm Springs Resort & Spa in Palm Springs, Calif. “With people’s lives these days centered on their computers and technology, it seems like everyone’s itching to be outside.”
SUMMING IT UP
Today’s outdoor venues, however, need more than a few plastic tables and chairs to thrive. Care must be taken to select the architectural details, decorative lighting and comfortable seating options that will help set the right tone and turn outdoor spaces into go-to hotspots.
A Touch of France
Today’s club members and guests want comfortable, casual gathering places, without compromising the top-notch service and ambiance they’ve come to expect from their club. After opening a formal dining room at Frenchman’s Reserve, a Toll Golf property in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., the club reinvented and renamed Parc, its casual-dining venue adjacent to the pool. Parc is a relaxed yet vibrant restaurant that General Manager Gary Collins describes as “Paris meets West Palm Beach.”
With a French-bistro theme, Parc has 80 tables inside and 40 permanent tables set up on the large patio. The patio is adjacent to the pool, offering diners clear views of the scenic pool area.
Parc’s patio has glass-top tables and metal chairs with cloth slings, along with oversized umbrellas that stretch 13- ½ feet across. Bistro tables and chairs are also set up underneath an awning against the building, creating a “Parisian sidewalk bistro” feel.
Well-appointed lighting further sets the sidewalk café mood on the Parc patio. All of the trees, poles and awnings throughout the patio are wrapped in twinkle lights. Landscape lighting and uplighting highlight the palm trees and flowers as they line walkways. Three French-style street lamps along the edges of the patio complete the French bistro theme.
To maintain a comfortable temperature on the patio, the club utilizes three portable propane heaters during cooler months. The heaters are triangulated in place to keep the entire patio warm, and are on wheels for easy adjustment, depending on diners’ preferences. In warmer months, Parc’s patio stays cooler thanks to the oversized umbrellas, shade provided by the building and prevailing breezes that flow through the space.
Since reopening in December 2010, Parc has been a hit. In fact, there was a 33% increase in covers in the first four months of operations. “It was clear that this casual indoor-outdoor dining venue was working for the club,” Collins says. “When people bring their mother-in-law or their boss to the club, they love to come to our formal, elegant clubhouse. But on a day-to-day basis, when they have their choice—if both outlets are open—I’ll do 25 lunches in the main dining room and 125 at Parc.”
Parc is perfectly on point with shifting member expectations, Collins adds. “Clubs are changing,” he says. “We love some parts of our formal dining room, and we need that. But there is no question, younger members want more casual [settings]. Parc was set up to be on the leading edge of what’s happening in the club industry as it changes.”
A Special Spot for All
The focal point at Riveria Palm Springs Resort & Spa is the picturesque resort pool and its surrounding food and beverage outlets. The pool’s cloverleaf design reates pockets around the pool that are set up in intimate seating areas. “It was designed like that so people could sit around the pool and feel like they had a special spot, without being in a row of chairs,” says Trudeau.
Surrounding the pool are three different restaurants: the Bikini Bar, Sidebar and Circa 59. The Bikini Bar is an outdoor bar and lounge located at the north point of the pool. It has a traditional square bar underneath a lit canopy. The Bikini Bar serves people sitting at high-back seating around the bar area, as well as guests sitting at the chaise lounges and gathering areas at the pool.
Many of the Bikini Bar’s seating areas are designed as outdoor living rooms. The gathering areas in the cloverleaf cutouts around the pool have firepits surrounded by cushioned wicker chairs. There are also areas set up with wicker and cushioned couches and coffee tables, creating a comfortable, at-home vibe amidst a chic resort.
The “outdoor living room” theme extends to the private poolside cabanas. Each cabana is set up with a 37-inch flat-screen outdoor television, a cushioned couch, a marble table and a lamp.
“If you are going to be outside, you want to be comfortable and you want to be viewing something that is pleasurable,” says Trudeau.
In addition to the unique living room setups served by the Bikini Bar, Circa 59 provides the resort with more traditional outdoor dining. As the resort’s main restaurant, it has 60 indoor seats and 180 outdoor seats on its bustling patio.
Keeping the restaurant and the Bikini Bar comfortable in the extreme desert climate is a top priority. Ficus trees were planted strategically throughout Circa 59, to create a canopy effect on the patio. At the same time, gas lines were piped in for nine outdoor heaters, with outlets placed around the trunks of the trees. The heaters are then set up right next to the trees, allowing them to blend in with the landscaping.
“They are the large, mushroom-style heaters, but since they are next to the trees, it doesn’t feel like you’re looking at a bunch of heaters,” says Trudeau.
To beat the dry desert heat, the resort utilizes a misting system throughout the entire patio. “The desert has very hard water, so we have an elaborate system that goes through a water-softening process,” explains Trudeau. “In the desert, the mister system is a must.”
The resort’s mister system is plumbed into the sides of the building and onto overhangs. The entire outside of the Bikini Bar is rimmed with a mister system. “When it comes down, it looks like it is raining all around the Bikini Bar,” says Trudeau.
Today’s patios can be refined settings, while maintaining the carefree nature of open-air dining. Shortly after the members at The Club at Mediterra, in Naples, Fla., purchased the club from its developer, the club built the Tavern on 18, a covered, al fresco dining venue adjacent to the main clubhouse. The Tavern overlooks the 18th green on the club’s South Course, and offers members an elegant yet informal outdoor-dining venue.
“The Tavern on 18 is the brainchild of club leadership that recognized the creative potential of this area, not only as a much-needed extension of covered dining space and additional revenue, but also as a gathering spot for the club’s very social members,” says Tom Wallace, General Manager/CEO. “This gives them the casual space and comfort to be together in one central location.”
The Tavern on 18 is centrally located adjacent to the main clubhouse, between it and the golf staging area. Created from a former outdoor terrace, it has a permanent roof structure, along with twelve 20-foot, remote-operated roll-down clear vinyl shades that provide protection from cooler weather and summer rains. Additionally, portable tower heaters are set up throughout the restaurant during cool winter days. In the warmer months, portable air conditioners and overhead fans provide cool comfort.
Central to the Tavern is its 35-foot cherry wood bar, adorned with a three-foot carved Mediterra logo. The restaurant features round and square dining tables, as well as high-tops. Dark neutral colors, metal and rattan furnishings, comfortable cushions and stone flooring create an elegant ambiance that blends with the club’s overall Mediterranean villa design theme.
Since its opening in January 2011, Tavern on 18 has helped to further bolster the club’s social members and sense of community. “Community is a natural outgrowth in a successful club,” says Wallace. “Outdoor dining, particularly in subtropical Southwest Florida, is a very popular amenity and accentuates the positive aspects of club life.”
The breezy, laid-back nature of outdoor patios and dining venues makes these areas natural social hotspots. To respond to the needs of its active membership, Chester Valley Golf Club, in Malvern, Pa., built the Pavilion, an outdoor dining and gathering area.
“The Pavilion has added a new benefit to the membership to just drop in and see their families and friends,” says Kevin M. Dwyer, CCM, General Manager. “This has become the social center in summer months.”
The Pavilion is strategically located between Chester Valley’s pool and tennis complex. With an extremely active tennis and swim program, the club needed a casual gathering area that would cater to families and act as an alternative to the formal dining in the main clubhouse.
“As the club has grown dramatically in the past several years, the addition of the Pavilion made perfect sense to provide a more casual dining venue,” says Dwyer. “The club relaxed its dress code at the Pavilion to include the opportunity to wear denim, which is not currently available in the main clubhouse.”
The Pavilion has a Mediterranean style with stucco, stamped decorative concrete flooring and an open, airy design. The space is set up with a full-service bar area that has eight stools and two 60-inch televisions.
Table seating is available for 100 people, with tables set up both under the permanent cover and in a courtyard entrance. There is also a full-service snack bar directly adjacent to and accessible from the pool deck.
While the Pavilion’s purpose was to offer members and guests a more casual dining option, along with more casual fare, the club has not skimped on the quality expected from its food-and-beverage operation. “Our club enjoys a fine reputation for great food served exceptionally well in our clubhouse,” says Dwyer. “The size and location of the Pavilion’s kitchen are geared toward much more casual fare.”
With 525 families at the club, the Pavilion has helped Chester Valley reach out to families and create a space for members of all ages to enjoy. “Building the Pavilion has allowed the club to expand its overall scope of amenities, to include experiences for the entire family,” says Dwyer.
Three Steps to a Great Outdoors
Whether you’re reinventing an existing patio or building a new space, creating effective outdoor areas that fit well in today’s club atmosphere calls for a three-step approach: