It was during a part-time job that Luke O’Boyle realized he loved working in private clubs.
O’Boyle, now the general manager and chief operating officer of the Chevy Chase Club in Maryland, was just a young employee who was shadowing a bartender before afternoon service began. As he watched, the bartender crafted eight cocktails, each different, and placed them at separate locations throughout the empty dining room.
Within minutes, eight members came in and sat down at their drink.
It was that personal touch—knowing their order, where they would be seated, and the time they would arrive—that changed the game for O’Boyle and made him want to be part of such a special community.
During an industry panel on April 30, 2018, Johnson & Wales University hosted 12 professionals, including O’Boyle, at the Providence campus for an inside look at the private club industry—and it quickly became evident that they all had one belief in common: personality can make or break a private club professional.
Why Personality Matters
A private club is very different from a restaurant or a hotel where things are relatively transient and, therefore, the service is different too.
“For the members, the club is an extension of their home,” said panelist Kerryan O’Connor, dining room manager at Rhode Island Country Club.
All of the panelists agreed, saying that members who join a club are essentially looking for another place of comfort where they can enjoy their time, explore their interests, and make meaningful connections. Instead of coming or going every so often, many members frequent their clubs weekly and sometimes daily. Because of this, the service must be personal. And in order to give members the top-tier service they’re expecting, employees need to develop a friendly, personable demeanor that makes people feel at ease.
“You can learn job skills and club politics,” said O’Connor, “but you need to develop your personality because that can’t be taught.”
Based on the stories the panelists shared, it was obvious that a successful club professional will always make an effort to learn their members’ names, preferences, family members, and what they like and dislike.
James Reisig ’08, director of dining at Union Club of New York, said the people who succeed are dedicated to serving others and have a “hospitality heart.”
“You need to enjoy your job,” he said.
Whether they’re working in a kitchen, planning a grand wedding, or interacting with members in the clubhouse, a successful club employee, no matter their rank, will be approachable and willing to go the extra mile for a member.
And it is those personal touches that will keep the members—and ultimately, the club—a happy, community-focused place.