The back of the house is being brought front and center as clubs fuse style and technology with practical operations and renovate their kitchens before members’ watchful eyes.
For club kitchens, a functional space that allows the culinary staff to perform to the best of its ability is a priority. So a good kitchen renovation must address common issues that arise day to day, like traffic flow for both wait staff and cooks.
But a great renovation also considers what members and guests want from their culinary experiences. As the backbone of food-and-beverage operations, club kitchens must be practical—but as shown by the following renovation examples (some complete, and some still in progress), it’s also OK to follow function with stellar form that you needn’t be embarrassed to show off.
Transparency, Through and Through
As a rule, back-of-house operations generally go unseen by the public. But the staff at Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club is so proud of its pristine, newly renovated culinary quarters, the Membership Director makes sure prospective members now get to see the kitchen on their tour of the property.
|SUMMING IT UP
“We are very upfront about what we do,” says Oliver Boudin, CCM, CCE, General Manager and Chief Operating Officer for the Nichols Hills, Okla., club. “Our culinary team is engaged with the membership on a daily basis, so we wanted to make sure our members felt comfortable going into the kitchen, by opening a door to an area that a lot of people don’t usually get to see.”
With a banquet kitchen that dated back to 1954, Oklahoma City G&CC embarked on a renovation in January 2011 that would ease traffic-flow problems and handle increased volume, especially if two functions are going on simultaneously. With an investment of $2.5 million, the renovation was completed in June 2011 and immediately began to yield all anticipated benefits.
Because an aesthetically appealing kitchen was important to the club, it was redone with “subway tile” walls with green octagon accents and “evening lighting” that dials back the fluorescent glare. LED hood-system lights were also added, to provide an ethereal red effect.
The club can now host dinners of up to 30 at the chef’s table inside the kitchen, for those who want to be on the scene for a live culinary performance. But for those who can’t stand the heat (and thus might want to stay out of the kitchen), a camera system allows members from all over the club to see in during prep, adding to the complete transparency of the operation.
“Our members love seeing how clean and clear and organized everything is,” Boudin says. “We made it elegant, interesting and appealing to the eye.”
Employees put the audiovisual system to use as well. From within the kitchen, workers can see what’s going on in the club’s two other kitchens, as well as its main receiving and storage areas, on a 70-inch screen. They can even zoom in to see the preparation process via a Wi-Fi connection, and visual access to the kitchen is also made possible through virtual tours on the club’s website.
The slick layout of Oklahoma City G&CC’s newly renovated kitchen doesn’t just help everything look good; it ensures that it functions efficiently as well. To keep the kitchen fluid and able to handle dining functions of any size, volume or configuration, the equipment and tables are on wheels, so everything is moveable and adjustable. This flexibility also allows easier cleaning, as do three power-wash stations embedded into the walls and sloping floors angled toward drains that allow the kitchen to take on as much as four inches of water without damaging the flooring below.
One of the biggest issues the kitchen faced before the renovation was crossover from wait staff. The club is capable of hosting multiple banquet functions, so avoiding traffic jams by keeping the dish room easily accessible and increasing the number of plating lines helps to make sure employees move about the space effortlessly.
Though the renovation did not add space (the kitchen is about 4,500 sq. ft., and the receiving area remains 3,000 sq. ft.), it made better use of what space was available, including the addition of walk-in refrigerators that allow plates to be put on a racking system and rolled in for chilling or holding.
Now that the new kitchen has been in use for more than a year, Boudin would still like to have more space, especially in the dish room. But he and his staff are extremely proud of what’s been accomplished. He attributes the success of the project to the “crucial” planning process that produced a detailed agenda before demolition started.
“We like what we have,” Boudin says. “We might increase the size of it, but we’re very pleased with the end product.”
Open and Airy
As part of the second phase of a $27 million expansion project, Broken Sound Club in Boca Raton, Fla., seeks to “bring Disney World” to the club with a swimming pool complex now under construction. The project includes a casual Bistro restaurant, designed from scratch, that will be partially indoors, with an outdoor portion under cover, a pool deck and additional outdoor dining that covers almost an acre of land.
Taking into account the tremendous success of the chef’s table in its main clubhouse kitchen and the desire to make the pool area as open as possible, Broken Sound designed an open-kitchen concept for its Pool Bistro, where members and guests can have full viewing access to how the staff functions, from food prep to table service.
“It gives a feeling that you’re involved in the process and people can see what’s going on,” says General Manager John Crean, CCM, CEE. “People want to see the inner workings of an organization. So it’s educating members about what it takes to run a kitchen, and they can get a better understanding of what’s going on.”
From the buffet counter, customers will be able to see the largest back-of-house area, the display kitchen. The smaller, main prep kitchen will sit behind the display area. Both the indoor and outdoor snack bar walk-up windows, with self-serve yogurt and ice cream machines, will give members a view of the snack bar kitchen.
“Functionality is very important,” Crean says. “The less movement the chef has to do for prepping a course or product, the better. We don’t want him to have to run from one end of kitchen to the other—time is of the essence.”
The driving factor in the design and construction of the new complex has been member usage. The club staff realized that a snack bar in the pool area wasn’t enough for a younger membership base that valued the club’s resort, fitness and swimming amenities. Crean acknowledges that this shortcoming helped to shape the design of the new Bistro, as Broken Sound now seeks to offer a well-rounded approach for both casual and formal dining to all segments of its membership.
The Bistro’s 30-foot, pie-shaped ceiling, with its beachy, Cape Cod feel, flows into the open kitchen, to keep the entire pool area and terrace open and airy. Broken Sound retrofitted equipment from its former Center Court Café to create the new pool eatery, and is also developing an upscale, Starbucks-style coffee shop offering juices, wheatgrass and health foods.
When complete, the bistro kitchen will measure about 3,400 sq. ft. Before construction, indoor, outdoor and terrace dining seated 66; now it will seat 205 with a wide variety of options, including indoor and outdoor “eat-at” bars, an indoor dining room, outdoor table dining and umbrella dining.
From a management standpoint, Crean says, having the kitchen on display allows employees to feel proud of what they’re doing. “It introduces a level of pride to produce and perform work while being watched,” Crean says. “We have 350 employees, and the back of house is not always seen by members.”
Construction of the pool area began in mid-April; the goal is to have everything up and running in the week before Thanksgiving, to break in equipment and continue adjusting and shaping the menu in time for the arrival of vacation customers. For now, Crean is optimistic that all of the correct decisions have been made.
“Looking back, there’s nothing I would have changed,” he says. “When we get it up and running, we’ll have a better idea of what we could have or should have done. Everyone is comfortable with how things are going.”
Crean then offers “some words of wisdom” for the success of any such project: “The input of anybody involved should be solicited.”
Necessity is the mother of renovation. For many clubs looking to redesign their kitchens, that necessity is creating efficient traffic flow with a thoughtful layout, particularly when a la carte and banquet service must co-exist.
On May 15, Shadow Wood Country Club in Bonita Springs, Fla., began construction to renovate its 12-year-old kitchen, which General Manager Bill Wagner described as “worn out.” The redesign was part of a $4.8 million renovation of Shadow Wood’s main clubhouse, which receives considerably more volume from its 1,100 members than its second clubhouse, nearly 7 miles away.
While the rest of the clubhouse is set to be completed on November 7, the Shadow Wood kitchen staff is trying out its new digs ahead of schedule, testing ovens, training employees and loading storage areas.
The kitchen redesign incorporated standard upgrades, such as duct work, enlarging drains and updating floors according to ever-changing codes. But it also reconfigured the kitchen’s layout, using a practical method.
“We put chalk lines on the floor to feel where pieces of equipment were going and to see if the traffic flow worked for the staff,” Wagner says. Throughout the pre-renovation process, Wagner called in the culinary team to get their input on the appropriate layout.
The result was to separate the a la carte and banquet kitchens, even though they remain under the same hood, by shifting a la carte to the front, closest to the dining room, and adding banquet preparation to the prep area in the back. Square footage for the space was increased by only 300 sq. ft. after switching out a wall, but that space is now being used more efficiently.
“[We] basically had a combination a la carte line and banquet line, and we couldn’t separate the functions,” Wagner says. “If we had an event going and a lot of diners came all of a sudden, there was a traffic jam in the kitchen, and the a la carte suffered.”
The club also added two outdoor bars and a patio that seats over 100 people. Wagner anticipates a 20% bump in cover revenue because members will now have more choices. The club is also adding a small pastry area to devote more time to desserts. Other new features include a high-BTU steakhouse broiler and stainless-steel serving tables, while additional drawers and refrigerator space also help minimize movement for the cooks.
The best advice Wagner has to offer a club looking into a kitchen renovation is to hire a qualified kitchen designer. “In our case, [we found one] that designed and spec’d all the equipment [from their fabrication house] and came with a price for all equipment and installation,” he says. “It’s much easier and if there’s a problem, you can just switch it out.”
Still, Shadow Wood’s kitchen is brand new, so it’s difficult to determine what problems—if any—will arise. “As far as the kitchen layout goes, it looks like we did everything right. But the first person to tell me will be the executive chef,” Wagner says with a laugh.