Meet the F&B manager: Royal Mid-Surrey Golf Club’s Lee Third

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 8, 2017 14:55 Updated

Lee Third is the food and beverage manager of Royal Mid-Surrey Golf Club. He talks about the benefits of the club’s wine committee, trying new dishes and how to increase revenues in a golf club’s bar and restaurant

What are the biggest challenges you face as a food and beverage manager?

I would probably say correctly costing menu prices with regards to ingredients as prices are constantly fluctuating. Achieving consistent quality whilst still hitting target margins is also a challenge. Secondly would be ensuring we get the right team members and when we do, making sure they are well compensated not only financially, but also looked after in terms of their health and wellbeing. Our industry hours can be very long with multiple events plus looking after the daily operation too.

What you term ‘car park membership’ presents a challenge to a club. How do you tempt this shy breed to experiment with the food and beverage offering?

It’s a multi-prong approach, mainly ensuring good communication of information about events through newsletters or notices around the clubhouse. We also use members’ social media sites such as our website, plus the Royal Mid-Surrey Facebook and Twitter pages.

Social events play a big part of our club culture whether it be golf related or not. This means reaching out to those people who don’t use the clubhouse daily and have them involved in other activities including the summer party, wine dinners, barbecues, twilight golf and club suppers, which are all very popular.

Royal Mid-Surrey’s selection of wines is driven by a wine committee. How does this work?

A lot of our members are very active through committees, creating an overall feeling of ownership and pride in the club. This was extended to a wine committee being formed some time ago with the goal of developing a wine list which will not only appeal to members, but visitors alike. The idea is to keep up with current trends and vintages and to also review and regularly change the list to keep it fresh and appealing.

How do you keep the rest of the food and beverage offering fresh?

It’s a matter of keeping abreast of the trends, creating menus by talking to members and asking them about the sort of items they would like to see included. Sometimes it could be something we may have seen ourselves and thought ‘let’s try this concept out and see how it works’.

For example, the head chef and I were discussing Brick Lane and the assortments of international dishes available, such as paella dishes. We thought why not try this as an idea rather than offering, say, a barbecue for an outdoor event. This proved to be very popular as people could sample everything from paellas to curries to Moroccan dishes.

This was further enhanced by creating an atmosphere of an exotic market with lanterns, coloured fabrics and storm candles on the outdoor furniture, plus music to complete the overall theme.

You are known for delivering high standards in the area of hospitality, events and customer service. What is it that you do that makes the difference?

With private events, it starts with meeting in person and getting an idea of the concept and style they are looking for. On many occasions we create something personally for them which fits in with their theme and works with the budget they have in mind. It can be a case of little tweaks with menus to full blown set up and design changes in order to meet their expectations.

What is it that you enjoy about your job and what delivers you the greatest satisfaction on a daily basis? 

For me it’s not settling for the norm and having a passion for member services within the golf industry. I’m constantly looking at other ideas in the food and beverage industry which can be brought into a private club like ours for our members to enjoy. For my team it’s about looking after everyone’s requirements as best as possible and to surpass the expectations wherever we can.

What advice and key points would you give to managers working in smaller clubs, with a lesser budget, that could help them to offer the best food and drink to their members and visitors?

It does come down to good old communication with your colleagues and members – bouncing ideas around and trying new concepts. Sometimes it’s also a case of throwing out ‘well it’s been done this way for years’ and asking questions. Can we try something new? What can we do different which will keep people coming back and get members using the food and beverage facilities more often?

Changing and offering seasonal menus is key but also smaller details matter like presentation, from the smallest thing, for instance sandwich presentation. The best advice is listen to your members. Ask the question – what can we do with the resources we have? Sometimes we just take something, look at it and put a new twist on it. Go to another club or restaurant and see what they do and what could work in your club.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 8, 2017 14:55 Updated
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