Food for thought (part two)

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick April 4, 2024 12:07

This is the second of a two-part feature looking at the advice expert Steven Brown provides to golf clubs on all areas of their operations, to make their bars and restaurants more profitable. He concludes that maximising revenues starts with managers taking control of their facilities.

Part one is here.

After more than 25 years of advising hundreds of golf clubs on how to improve their food and beverage operations, it has become obvious that the advice has changed, and in some ways greatly. Sometimes the advice is exactly the same.

Here are my brief reflections on food and beverage operations in the UK and Northern Ireland golfing industry (in no particular order).

External stock takes

I am an advocate of regular, monthly independent stock takes. The detail provided is wonderful so long as you know how to interpret the figures and act upon the advice given!

What your stock taker must do to assist you is to provide a written commentary to support the data generated, highlighting both the good points and the points that need attention, thus supplying you with a blueprint for total control.

Fobs / cards used by staff

Please ensure that your staff use the fobs and cards they were issued with in order to be able to better identify who did what and when as an audit trail.

At least ensure that they are not all using the same card to record sales as it totally defeats any possibility of analysing an audit trail.

Menu designs

There is a specific and proven method of designing and laying out a menu. It is quite technical, but the best thing to do is be guided by researching ‘Menu Engineering’, which will give you a good grounding.

Supplier deals

When was the last time you renegotiated your supplier deal?

It is a very competitive market out there so don’t just focus on the wholesale price, look at the full range of services that these organisations have available to you, ranging from retros, POS material, Sky TV fee reductions, club badged wine bottles, sponsorship, free stocks and so on.


In my view this is one of the most important measures of whether a food and beverage operation is being properly managed. Your stock taker must be able to provide you with this information, and your target yield is 99 percent. My own experience tells me the average yield is 93 to 95 percent, meaning that some five to seven percent has been lost in the period. The question is, where did it go?


Please take a look at your website to see if it is promoting the wonderful offer you provide, and not just that it has ‘wonderful views of the golf course’. Don’t be the best kept secret in town!

Changing rooms

Why is your club spending (say) £50,000 on refurbishing the changing rooms, when upwards of 70 percent of your members don’t use them, preferring to change in the car park? Spend it on the food and beverage units I say.

Which unit is costing the most?

The question I often have to identify for my clients, from a total in-house operation, is this – is the bar supporting the catering or is the catering support in the bar?

It’s a dilemma, especially if your staff fulfil roles helping out in both sections, but if it is at all possible to separate both the income and expenditure for each unit, you will get a much better idea and understanding of where the issues lay.

Them and us

Too often I encounter the situation of a franchisee refusing to co-operate and work with bar staff or vice versa. Please tell them to behave like adults, and if that fails, then bang their heads together until they do. They are working on the same team, not on opposite sides.

‘Tails wagging dogs’

I’m sad to report that a number of clubs, where the franchisee has been in the post for quite a number of years, have allowed them to dictate everything from staffing levels, opening hours or the amount of event activity they are prepared to undertake.

It’s time to take back control.

If these people do not wish to comply with the club’s wishes and future expansion, then perhaps it is time for them to consider their position!

Food and beverage managers

If I had my way, every club would employ the services of a food and beverage manager. An individual with a proven track record of managing, controlling and guiding the units to work efficiently and effectively to maximise the club’s full potential.

Obviously this comes at a cost, but don’t lose sight of the time savings that will be made for the busy club secretary / manager by not having to deal with the day-to-day issues that are so time consuming from the food and beverage operations.

Stock insurance levels

Given the increased levels of stock clubs are now holding due to delivery shortages, please check to see if your current insurance cover is sufficient for the cash amount of unsold stock being held.

Which liquor licence?

In England and Wales there are two different types of licence. A premises licence and a club registration certificate. (There are slight variations to the licences available in both Scotland and Northern Ireland.)

Simply put, the premises licence will enable the club to trade with members and non-members alike (the same way as a public house). The club registration (CR) only allows for members, visiting societies and members’ guests to visit and purchase alcohol.

Naturally the premises licence allows for far more opportunities to sell alcohol, especially at non-members’ functions, and all with no discount attached.

The CR certificates limit these opportunities but that may suit the needs of the members better.

My preference is for all clubs to hold the premises licence and then restrict trading times and occasions in whatever way the club sees fit in terms of business expansion, the members wishes and of course in complying with the law.

Please make sure you display the licensing notice issued where all intending purchasers can see it.

(Similarly ensure your weights and measures and price lists are visible and up to date).

The halfway house

Always a great debate about this additional source of revenue:

• Does it detract from clubhouse sales?

• Does it capture sales from those that would not be using the clubhouse?

• Is it simply a seasonal service or a stand-a-lone profit centre?

• Can it be licenced in the same way the clubhouse is?

I can only advise each club having interrogated the forensic data available.

There are many questions regarding this and every club will have different challenges and therefore different solutions.

Customer surveys

When was the last time your club conducted a dedicated food and beverage survey?

How can you possibly put together a three-year food and beverage plan, when you don’t know what your customers’ requirements are?

Why do some 80 percent of your members choose not to use your food and beverage service on a regular basis?

If you don’t know the answer to that key question, then use a customer survey to find out – the results may surprise you.

Rise of the coffee shop

A number of my clients are now considering an expansion of their services into dedicated coffee shops, utilising unused space and their chef’s pastry making skills.

I love this idea, not only because of the profit motive (which is great) but because it isn’t golf related and opens up the door to greater social memberships and encourages people to attend social events or even joining the club as a fully-fledged member.

Customer communications

I love to see a regular newsletter setting out plans for the wide range of events that clubs are now offering such as tea dances, seances, poetry and book clubs, fitness classes, open mic sessions, indoor carpet bowls, craft fairs and so on.

Not right for every club I grant you, but unless you take the risk to try out events like this, you will never know if you are missing an opportunity.

The carvery

I can never quite understand why this works in some clubs and not in others, but again another source of possible income. Be careful of the waste element and ensure that you recycle unsold foods wherever possible.

Fine dining

My feeling is that whilst this offers an opportunity to expand the business, unless you have a dedicated, properly decorated and furnished area, this seldom works in the vast majority of clubs.

By all means consider a pattern of one-off fine dining events where prices can be raised, but the cost of establishing the same on a regular basis may be prohibitive.

Product knowledge

Please ensure that staff know about the characteristics of the products they sell, and especially what the ‘soup of the day’ actually is!

Stock takes (internal)

In the world of brewery-owned managed houses, the managers of larger establishments are required to conduct ‘line checks’ at least three times a week on a range of varying different products, thus ensuring any anomalies in stocks and sales are highlighted. I love this as a great management control technique, and one that keeps everyone on their toes. Ensure that you share the results, as with those external results, with those people that generated the figures – your food and beverage staff.

Stock takes (external)

Please ensure that your bar supervisor and chef / cook accompanies the stock taker on the physical count! They must neither assist in the counting or recording of any of the stock but must be on hand to ensure that nothing is missed or miss-counted. and make sure your stock taker shares their concerns with heads of staff and the manager before they leave the premises. The results should be with you either before they leave or within 48 hours, so don’t settle for anything less.

Cross ringing

Some staff get lazy when ringing in products on the till and simply press any button as a sale.

This can seriously mess up the stock result, leading to either bigger than expected surpluses or losses, so please educate staff to press the right button for the product sold.

If you have a PLU facility on the till, then that will highlight where cross ringing is occurring.

Get staff to ‘sell’ events

The most important contact any food and beverage operation has is that between the front of house staff and the customer. Don’t miss any opportunities to sell attendance at forthcoming events, and your staff can make a real difference here.

‘We don’t have a function room’

Wrong! Every club has a function room. When your club closes its doors in the winter at (say] 6pm, and the building is empty, you have a function room for use by non-members (if you have the correct licence of course) for a wide range of non-discounted events.

An events coordinator

Obviously a limited market for those clubs that conduct a large number of events throughout the year.

A dedicated professional joining up the dots from the initial booking, through setting up the room for the events, communicating directly with the client to meet their needs, providing appropriate staffing levels, any entertainment, agreeing menus with chef, and attending the event, is an asset for any club.

They must of course justify that salary in relation to the events carried out, but I must admit to being a big fan of this personnel element when conducted properly.

Compliance and the EHO

The environmental health officer can be your best friend or your worst enemy.

Ensure that all food and beverage staff have awareness of all health and safety practices, correctly recording of all kitchen documentation, deep cleans, waste removal and use of equipment.

QR codes and table service

Many of you will know that I am a great advocate of table service, as evidence shows that people stay longer and spend more when it is available. This comes at the cost of course, but that should be reflected in the retail price.

Modern methods of payment and ordering are inevitably now taking place, leading to reductions of staffing levels.
As we progress, more and more of these supposedly customer conveniences will be introduced, but for my money you still can’t beat a face-to-face chat with a real person, not a robot.


Hospitality is a people business, and so long as we are not employing people just from the neck down as a pair of hands, then you stand a good chance of maximising your food and beverage opportunities.

Your food and beverage operation should be a welcome addition to the golf that is the mainstay of your business. It needs to be controlled, managed and promoted in the right way and not be a drain on your resources.

My consultancy role enables me to visit with clubs to assist them in improving or expanding the service they have.

There is much good work going on out there but always work to be done.

If you want your food and beverage operation to be an asset to the club, then control is the key.

I’ve always said, when asked what is the key is to having a successful food and beverage operation, and simply put, it is to a) have regular external, independent stock takes, b) purchase and fully utilise the best till technology money can buy, c) invest in the best staff available and d) for the club manager / secretary to be out in the food and beverage operation when least expected, to ask questions about everything that’s going on, and in this way you will have the control you need, and a food and beverage operation to be proud of.

Steven Brown FBII, tp is from food and beverage consultancy INN-FORMATION. Contact him on 07785 276320 or 01604  843163, or email


Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick April 4, 2024 12:07
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