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How Can a Private Club Market its F&B?

A scan of any metropolitan area will usually reveal a cluster of private clubs offering many of the same amenities and benefits—top-rated golf, racquet sports, fitness, swimming, social programming, events, dining and more—in addition to individual details on location, history and culture. While each club should be leveraging its own uniqueness, qualified prospective members might struggle to note any differentiation when looking from the outside in. They may often unknowingly rely on brand to differentiate between clubs when making a joining decision, however, the lasting loyalty of active members is also routinely influenced by branding. 

The same is true for food and beverage (F&B) marketing. In fact, marketing has everything to do with brand and very little to do with F&B. The most important component for successful F&B marketing within a private club is understanding the club’s identity and vision, and then delivering on its brand promise. 

The F&B program has become far more important in the storytelling of a club’s brand and member experience, especially since member priorities have shifted to a holistic view of a private club’s lifestyle. The club’s brand informs both operational and marketing decisions within the dining venues, from what goes on the menu and how the menu is packaged and designed, to member communications, online presence, staff uniforms and the range of events hosted. 

With the club as the master brand and each dining venue as a sub brand, a club can create an ecosystem of brands that work together harmoniously. Developing a unique marketing plan for each dining outlet is an activity that supports operations. This annual process comprises the plan that not only plots the future, but also provides the team a shared goal to work toward and parameters from which to work. Practicing intentionality with the “little things” matters: 

  • Break down the silos. Marketing professionals and F&B leaders should work together as partners to find a balance between what is communicated and how often. Simpler is better—especially when communicating operational changes. 
  • Establish a brand voice to ensure that all club communications—not just F&B—are conveyed in a singular voice to help maintain brand consistency. 
  • Sales activities require a quick response, especially for event inquiries. The time and money invested in lead generation can quickly be lost when inquiries linger. Alternately, when response time is reduced, conversions will increase exponentially.   
  • Menus are marketing tools, inside and out, online and in-person. A menu should tell the story of the dining experience in a singular, packaged piece. Check for accuracy, grammar, typos and consistency. Think beyond food with the adoption of thoughtful beverage and cocktail inclusions that reflect seasonality and trends. 
  • Strengthen connections and the club’s F&B brand by inviting back-of-the-house leaders to meet and mingle with the members when appropriate. 
  • Because tastings are an expression of expertise, wedding and event tastings aren’t just a best practice in sales but also a brand opportunity. Treat them as a way to showcase the chef’s expertise, the service team’s skills and the club’s hospitality competence. 
  • Make photography and video a priority. The way of communication today is more visual than written. 
  • Use technology to enhance operations and maintain relevance. Online ordering, online reservations, electronic contract signing and mobile apps will streamline interactions and enhance the member experience. 
  • When the food and beverage operations work in service to the overarching club identity and vision, every F&B touchpoint becomes a marketing opportunity that reinforces the global message and the club’s brand. 

Ed Doyle is president of RealFood, Hospitality, Strategy and Design, a Troon Company. He can be reached at [email protected].