14 Golf Inc. Fall 2014
When Ken Butler was interviewing for the
position of chief operating o;cer at the
Berkshire County Club in Reading, Pa., in
2012, the board members asked him how
he would turn around food and beverage.
He answered by asking them, “Why
would you want to?”
“;ey looked at me like I was crazy,” he
Well, not anymore. ;e members at
Berkshire have since seen the light. ;anks
to data provided by Club Benchmarking,
a Boston-based ;rm that o;ers a benchmarking business intelligence tool to clubs,
Butler has been able to show them how the
club’s F&B performs quite well compared
to similar clubs.
It only loses about 1 percent.
“Before, we didn’t have data,” he said.
“We only had our own little world.”
;e belief that food and beverage should
turn a tidy pro;t has been around for
decades. In the past, with much work, it
could be done. But back then, clubs were
bursting with members and had waiting
When golf hit rocky times and saw memberships plunge, it soon became obvious
that food and beverage was a vital component needed to keep and attract members,
So making it pro;table was not as important as making it a draw.
“You have to look at the big picture,” he
said. “And the big picture is dues and reten-
Russ Conde, COO and co-founder of
Club Benchmarking, said F&B is more
important as an amenity.
“It’s an important social amenity,” Conde
said. “But it’s not a pro;t center.”
;at’s because such operations, no mat-
ter how well run, have several handicaps.
For one, they are not open to the public, so
they have a ;nite number of customers —
club members and their families. ;ey can
have signi;cant labor costs because sta;ng
can be problematic, given that many clubs
o;er more than one dining venue. And
pricing has to be competitive with — or
even cheaper than — nearby restaurants or
else members will go there.
Butler used to own a restaurant, so he
knows how the two operations work. ;ey
are similar in that they both serve food and
beverage, he said. But, that’s about where
the similarities end, he added.
For one thing, his club o;ers several
dining experiences. However, it’s costly to
fully sta; all such venues at the same time,
“We’re operating multiple outlets and
all at the same time,” he said. “A restaurant
would never do that.”
And you can’t scrimp on service either,
because members expect a high level. “If
we were to focus on making money in food
and beverage, we would have terrible ser-
vice,” he said.
And members would then question their
investment in the club.
Most clubs — 75 percent — lose money
when it comes to food and beverage,
according to Club Benchmarking, so if
you’re a club losing money, you are hardly
And the loss likely isn’t substantial
enough to cause all of the angst that many
private club leaders feel over it. ;e average loss is only about 4 percent of the club’s
available cash — or gross pro;t — according to Club Benchmarking tallies, which
The F&B quandary
If you’re losing money or breaking even on food and beverage, you’re in good
company. Just don’t lose money for the wrong reasons. BY MIKE STETZ
Cheeseburger … $10
Salmon Entree … $22