Need Ideas for Private Dining (to get New Members)

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by paul burton, Aug 28, 2012.

  1. paul burton

    paul burton

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    I am an executive chef at a small non-profit, private fine dining restaurant/club in a small city of about 60,000 people.  I have been working for about 2 months now and can now officially say that all the food, recipes and new menus are all mine.  Even with all the grand new menus happening we are not getting any new members.

    The house manager and I run the business with only 7 staff currently.  There is a volunteer board of members with a President and VP and so on.  While they do not micro-manage they do make sure we stay on top of the things we need to, like sales and preparing special nights for community events.  We have to go through this board to make any significant changes (i.e membership costs, new equipment, large scale maintenance).

    OK for the question at hand.  The board is pushing us to make the club more young friendly.  We have less than 150 members and only 4 of them are under 40.  My opinion for the lack of younger members is the monthly membership fee. I just don't feel that younger generations are going to want to pay a membership just to go out to eat.  There is plenty of competition for us and they aren't private clubs.  So my question is this, what could we add to our services other than just fine food to make our club more appetizing to the younger generation.  We are located down town and are surrounded by buildings, so having a golf course like the other clubs is out of the question :).

    I have thought of making a lower tier membership that would allow people to come in and pay a nightly membership fee just on the nights they come to eat, so they don't feel the pressure of a monthly bill.  On the other hand though, we would need to offer more to the people who do pay the monthly membership.  Any and all ideas would be helpful. Thanks!
     
  2. chefhow

    chefhow

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    Bocce Ball tournaments with food and drink specials.  We have an Elks club in the town where I live and they were having the same problem so they lowered the yearly membership to $75 per person, charge $1 per month and then charge full price for dinners.  On Friday and Saturday nights they have $45-$55 4-5 Course Prix Fix dinners with very nice menu's.  They also offer "bar food" and have Bocce tournaments every Friday and Saturday night.  They have doubled their membership since they started this last November and its a lot of fun.  My wife and I go once a month and I have volunteered to guest Chef since we joined in January.  They have also lowered the avg age from mid 50's to mid 30's with MANY young families joining. 
     
  3. brandon odell

    brandon odell

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    How are your kids menus? If you are in an area where the majority of young people are married, you're going to have to cater to the kids to get the families in. Parents simply can't go to restaurants that don't have food they think is appropriate for their kids.

    A really good idea out there now is specialized menus for different ages of kids. Kids of different ages can't eat the same foods, and most kids menus have food that is horrible for kids too. How about a baby food menu with 6 different foods (2 meat, 2 veg, 2 fruits) made with organic ingredients, pureed and portioned? They are easy to prep. Most meats or vegetables are very lightly seasoned, steamed and pureed. Then you portion them into ice cube trays and freeze them. Hold frozen until they are ordered then microwave them to order, sold by the portion. Fruit is pureed and held cold.

    For toddlers, you can create healthier meal options, like roasted chicken breast, steamed veggies, cheese and fruit, instead of the usual hot dogs and chicken fingers. Serve smaller portions than traditional "kids" portions and cut everything into pieces too small to be a choking hazard.

    For older kids, have some of the "staples" that kids like, with a couple healtier options that parents like. Offer healthy sides like apple slices and carrot/celery sticks intead of the usual french fries.

    Other great gimmicks to attract families include having some sort of snack for the kids ready to hit the table as soon as a family gets seated. When meals are ordered, serve the kids meals regardless of whether or not the rest of the family's food is ready. Buy some simple games to keep kids occupied while they are waiting on food, like mini etch-a-sketches.
     
  4. fts93

    fts93

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    In my opinion lot of differend foods, doenst bring more customers to this place. Okey, it`s good idea to make kids menu(not that usual, where is french fries and sausage). Just like Chicken, or pig and some veggies and this kind of stuff. But dont make it too complex for you and for your customers. If u have food to the babys, mid ages, teen ages->-> yeah i`m sure you understand.

    And today people dont want commit to some place for 1 year. It is one thing, which can send off young peoples from your place. But some happenings for different age people would be good message to people(hey we have happenings for all you)
     
  5. just jim

    just jim

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    What does the membership fee get you?

    The privilege to dine there?
     
  6. brandon odell

    brandon odell

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    For the record, the Club Managers Association of America statistics show that the average private club food service operates at a 15% loss. A lot of times, that is due to all the "freebies" expected by club members, like snacks in the card room. They also expect to pay less than they would at comparable restaurants because they are also paying dues. The dues pay some of the overhead that the F&B department doesn't have to pay, like rent, maintenance, capital improvements, etc. Also, the remainder of the club is maintained with the dues.

    If I were you, I wouldn't focus too much on the dues. As the chef, you'll have zero pull on any issues about dues. You might consider pushing for a food minimum if there is not one already.
     
  7. paul burton

    paul burton

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    First off I want to thank everyone for their input.  Our Club only offers monthly memberships unless you live out of town.  We do have different tiers for ages 35 and under and then a single 36 and over tier and then a couple 36 and over.  Right now we only offer only a dining experience and members can reserve the house for any party (first come, first serve).  Also, members can bring with them any number of guests to dine with them.  Being able to hold parties at the Club is actually quite the privilege too, as it is in an almost 200 year old house.

    Our calendar of events is something that we are pushing to fill more and more, since that does seem to bring in existing members.  I really like the idea of having a guest chef and simple games.  A children's menu is something I am working on now, so I will keep in mind not dumbing it down.  If anything it will impress the parents who will be paying.

    I actually do have a lot of pull in the presence of the board.  That is mostly due to the fact, they expect me to "save" the club.  Our food cost is quite low right now, mainly because about 3/4 of my paycheck I put back into the club with food.  Now before you ask where the money we are making is going, past chefs and managers left us in a lot of debt with vendors and the like.

    I am still wondering how to best market the Club to younger people?  What can I offer that will suite their fancy?  I ask this, being a foodie and a 24 year old.  Even I am starting to wonder where the allure can/could come from.
     
  8. just jim

    just jim

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    Please don't take this wrong, but you're 24 year old who puts back 75% of his pay to help save the club?

    Maybe I missed it, but are you family, or have a stake other than a paycheck?

    You say the past mucky mucks left "üs" in debt.

    There are so many things wrong with this picture.
     
  9. paul burton

    paul burton

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    Yeah there is a lot wrong with this picture. No, I have no stake and my family is not involved.  I just have a tendency to become very loyal very easily.  If I didn't do what I have done, then other employees who don't have the support I get from my family (like a place to live and food) would end up not getting a paycheck at all or loose their jobs all together when the restaurant closed it's doors.  I really appreciate all responses, and I know it sounds like a sad story, but I think it is quickly coming to an end.
     
  10. chipsahoy

    chipsahoy

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    Do you have a sense of community?
     
  11. paul burton

    paul burton

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    The community doesn't even know the club exists, and if they do they don't understand what it really is.
     
  12. planethoff

    planethoff

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    Find an established multi-business office complex nearby and find out if you can do a free tasting in their lobby.  Try to push a corporate membership plan (maybe create a separate plan for businesses at the club?), I have worked with a few companies that do seminars or training where they provide meals to encourage attendance.  Many do it on a monthly/bi-monthly basis.  You would not only get the revenue stream from the companies themselves, but you could leave membership information out for the atendees as potential members.  Good Luck.
     
  13. chefedb

    chefedb

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    I have been associatted with many clubs here in Palm Beach and yes most of them have same problems as you have. The oldtimers are dieing off, .and it is hard to  get younger membership to join when you have NO ,young members to entice them.  Here,  it is old money verses new.   Some older members wont accept the younger.. Do you have an individual membership charge and a family membership charge. May I suggest sending out some invitations to people an invite them to try the place without a membership  charge for  a time. HAVE A WELCOME COCKTAIL PARTY IF NEED BE. NO CHARGE. Remember to make money you must spend money, and word of mouth is best advertisement. Let your present membership bring  their younger children  without membership charge for a while.
     
  14. chefbuba

    chefbuba

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    I don't understand why you would throw 75% of your earnings into a business that is not yours, and the fact that the owners allow it? You have no financial interest in the place, and are essintially working for free. You have no income, basicailly you are unemployed.Leave now, find a paying job. Good for you to not want to see the other employees loose what they have, but it's not your problem. Do they know you subsidize the place with your salary so that they can keep their jobs?
     
  15. chefross

    chefross

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    Getting back to the original question.....

    The goal is to make your place more inviting to the younger people. In your shoes I have done things like small cooking demonstrations where the guests get to eat the final product. I have done small wine pairings with food at a nominal fee. I have got the place I worked at involved in community goings on to let people know I'm out there. There are small town fairs where for a small fee a table could be rented for you to sell or give away some of the foods you are famous for. This way you get the idea out there that you exist.