Who Wants a Better Food Outlet – Part Two

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Catering ReviewEarlier in the year we looked at the reasons why clubs have a food outlet, now having agreed they are a necessity for a whole range of reasons, we will look at the factors that influence what type of food operation they should have.

Part one finished with the recommendation that if you have a large number of people to cater for then you should have a variety of more intimate dining areas each with the different feel, perhaps some in different areas of the club, rather than one big, sterile environment. Let’s continue now by looking at some options that may be considered to add some variety or point of reference to your food areas.


A style that has been very popular over many years with clubs in New South Wales is Chinese. A theme that is not so popular in Queensland, although some Queensland clubs do run successful Chinese operations. With a limited Chinese menu it is easy to operate from an independent service point, and doesn’t necessarily have to be attached directly to a kitchen. Thai and Vietnamese food would also lend them to similar treatment, and allow a great theme opportunity.


Other areas that can be established are roast room areas that can serve a range of roast beef and rosemary rolls, roast lamb and mint sandwiches as well as roast meals. To satisfy the inexpensive roast meal market why not serve roasts in two different plate sizes?


Chargrill or steak concepts continue to be one of the most popular dining themes in Queensland, however it has not been capitalised on to the same extent in the club industry as it has in the hotel industry. Steak themes in the club environment still provide an opportunity to create a point of difference, they may not work economically every night of the week but can certainly cater for higher spend and busy environment is towards the end of the week.

Pasta and Pizza

Extremely popular in many restaurants and hotels, however again clubs have been slow to capitalise on the popularity of Italian food. While more clubs are putting in pizza ovens some are experiencing production problems with conventional wood ovens as opposed to conveyor belt ovens, which may not look interesting but are certainly far more efficient. Pasta is amongst the most profitable meals if prepared properly, many clubs use pasta for theme nights but few clubs have developed a truly Italian theme restaurant environment.Each one of these specific areas lends itself to a theme, so if you have a lot of repeat business it’s possible for people to eat in different places within the club at different times, and enjoy a different environment and a different style of food. You can also vary the level of service and opening times subject to demand in the different areas.Most of the food outlets I’ve just mentioned would not require high-powered, expensive chefs with lots of support staff, but could very easily be supported with keen, enthusiastic staff.

À la Carte

When one gets into the sophisticated à la Carte operation, it is a totally different ball game and should not be attempted by anybody without experienced staff and knowledge of the business they are getting themselves into.However, clubs that have the membership numbers, along with members that can afford and enjoy using an à la Carte restaurant, can provide an ideal opportunity to make this restaurant the flagship of the total food operation, by which the clubs food reputation is obtained. It may not be used by a lot of members, it may be criticised because it is expensive; however, by the same token people will talk about the quality of its food, even when they’ve never been there. All the club’s food outlets will share that quality reputation. The prime function of an à la Carte restaurant is to provide an entertaining experience around food. It’s an area that requires intense and constant supervision, because if it is done correctly it has an enormous labour content – primarily that’s what an a la carte restaurant is, selling service and entertainment, not only food.
Customer Service is the way that:

  • Customers are welcomed into a restaurant
  • Customers are shown to their table
  • The menu is explained to customers
  • The waiter becomes the communication link between the member and the kitchen
  • Communicate the time the chef takes preparing and presenting the food in a creative style
  • Details of wine knowledge and matching wine with food is also very important
  • Service is the operative word

A good à la Carte restaurant will provide all the entertaining trimmings, such as iced water, staff with baskets containing various selections of bread which are taken to the table; hot or cold towels; sorbets between courses; background music; an aroma such as freshly ground coffee; the right level of lighting; crisp linen tablecloths and serviettes; an occasional cooking table is to provide an entertaining spectacle for all people in the restaurant; for dishes that require the chef’s involvement. There is only a handful of examples of the highest level of à la Carte club dining can be experienced among them is Tattersall’s Club, Cricketers, Club Polo Club or the Brisbane Club.

Range of Possibilities

We now start to generate a picture of a whole range of possible food outlets. At all costs the “glorified soup kitchen” approach should be avoided, in which everybody has to line up and be dealt food from a hotbox.

The Glorified Soup Kitchen

The soup kitchen style may satisfy an immediate need, because somebody is hungry and happens to eat there for convenience or price. They have not been attracted to that establishment because of the food quality, the customer service or the restaurant environment. Regrettably the attraction for many people to this style of outlets is because it is cheap and subsidised by the club. Customers will not be attracted to a glorified soup kitchen, unless you want to subsidise it and incur a food loss. If this is the case, in the interests of responsible Committee/Board fiduciary obligations the question should be asked why would a club continue to provide this service, at the expense of all members to subsidise a minority.Food is certainly a complex issue and regrettably many club Committees/Boards and management spend an inappropriate amount of time analysing their food operations, sometimes forgetting they are in the entertainment business and provide a range of entertainment and hospitality services. My advice to clubs that have problems with their catering area is to go around have a look at popular restaurants, hotels and other clubs. Speak to other club Committees/Boards and managers.  But one word of warning, beware of profit & loss comparisons, as it is my experience that every club uses different formulas in arriving at their catering operations trading results which makes real comparison difficult.If you are reviewing your food operations and would like a fresh insight, please contact the team at DWS, we have food and beverage hospitality specialists who can assist with everything from;

  • market research; ensure you are serving to the right people,
  • layout and design,
  • menu composition,
  • inventory management,
  • profit and loss,
  • and more, right up to a full review of your catering operations.

Call us on 07 3878 9355 to speak with a DWS consultant to find out how we can help you or email your enquiry direct to John Dickson.

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