In a previous article, I presented my thoughts about technology, governance, and member services within the hierarchy of private clubs—based on observations I made while participating in the CMAA Club Foundation Faculty internship. While these three topics are important for students and future club leaders of tomorrow to embrace, there are three remaining topics I’d like to share with you.
Food and Beverage Programming
Regardless of the type of club, there is no question that the food and beverage programs and facilities where members are served are scrutinized and questioned. These programs and facilities directly correlate with the prepaid or ongoing expense of having a membership at a club. But, the perceived value of the membership, or what the member thinks he or she is getting for their money, should be more than what they are actually paying. By extending robust food and beverage programs to all members, the perceived value of a membership increases.
Takeaway: Clubs need to create valuable food and beverage programs that add to a member’s overall experience. A club should not make a member feel as though they have to go to the club to fulfil the commitment of a pre-determined food minimum. Instead, managers should ensure the programs make members want to come into the club, bring their friends, family, and potential new members, and show off their pride in the club. By framing and communicating the food and beverage programs in this manner, members can plan events and play host to potential members rather than react to the cost of belonging.
If the club does have a food minimum, or a required amount of money a member is required to pay per month, consider billing it quarterly instead of monthly. Many of the member’s social activities, like special occasions and meetings with friends, family, coworkers, and clients, are not evenly distributed in 30-day cycles, so it is more flexible for the member if the minimums are billed quarterly.
Also, the clubs should consider offering manageable food-to-go programs that add value and efficiency to a member’s life. Consider offering family dinners, deli platters, personalized cakes, pastries, and baked goods that can be consumed at home or brought in for a workplace meeting. Start with your signature items that members are already in love with. If the club has an app, this is a great service to incorporate.
A Shrinking Employee Talent Pool
According to a study from the Demographics Research Group at the University of Virginia, the growth in working-age individuals in the United States (ages 25 through 65) has “easily outpaced total U.S. population growth” over the past 30 years. However, the study says that “further growth in the working-age population is on track to be considerably slower.” This is due to the fact that when the “the large baby boomer generation leaves the workforce, there will be hardly enough 20-year-olds entering the workforce to replace them.” Because of this, club managers and executives must redefine their practices for hiring.
Takeaway: A manager must understand that creating private club–industry awareness is critical to recruiting qualified candidates. Club employees know the work environment is great but everyone else has no idea what is offered, so managers cannot forget the shared values discussion. Make sure to talk to prospective employees about safety, civility, and pride of ownership before even discussing pay and benefits.
In addition, managers can use industry resources, such as university internship programs, educational club tours, job fairs, and student CMAA chapters to recruit possible employees. Finally, managers can consider placing advertisements with local hiring boards or employment websites. While I am not generally a proponent of using blind advertisements to recruit, in the case of private clubs if an announcement is crafted properly, it should attract candidates who are a good fit. Consider phrasing such as, “are you a food and beverage professional looking for a safe and courteous work environment with a well-established, respected employer?” All employees, not just millennials, are looking for rewarding work and continual reinforcement that they are performing to expectations.
As private clubs begin to service up to five generations of members at a time, many are looking to create connection points. Connection points are social and formal activities that members and their families are already typically participating in that are not limited to their homes. Similar to the discussion centering around culture and shared values, these activities are meaningful and have developed over time. For example, members could participate in baking, barbecuing, quilting, knitting, collecting, or board games. How and why are these things important to a club? It is highly likely that different groups of members share the same traditional family activities.
Takeaway: Large member events are always desirable but a daylong carnival, for example, is not always feasible. Creating and planning multiple events where generations of members are able to interact in small numbers at a high frequency, maybe even a few times a month, can increase member presence at the club.
Beyond social and sporting events, multigenerational activities can also be beneficial to club growth and service. Storytelling programs about the club’s history, values, and mission during new member orientation could be structured to include an entire family instead of just the adult members. This could give prospective new members a greater understanding of the value of a membership.