Course Marketing

New GOLFNOW effort: chefs sharing knowledge

Experts in the kitchen recruited for advisory board

Course operators who are hungry for new ways to please golfers will be intrigued by GOLFNOW’s recent move to form a Chef Advisory Board. The new program recognizes the growing importance of food-and-beverage as a service upgrade for courses and a key to stronger profit performance.

An additional factor in creating this initiative is now a faster product cycle in casual dining. Trends and cycles in this niche have been appearing more quickly of late, making a notable impact on consumer tastes and the overall market. It’s expected that golf management teams will find it beneficial to learn quickly about new menu items or styles of presentation that are making a hit in grill rooms and taverns across the country.

Gathering and sharing best-practice insights and information has become an increasingly high priority within GOLFNOW Business Services—to the point that Mike Hendrix, the division’s vice-president, realized there was this new trail worth blazing.

“It became increasingly clear that our partner courses needed a type of expertise we didn’t have on our team here,” says Hendrix, referring to the dining end of golf operations. To a good degree he drew this conclusion by looking at the Ride component of GolfNow, which serves a growing legion of course managers by lowering procurement costs in several areas, including food supplies.

“We’ve done a good job, through Ride, of helping course partners save money on their food purchases,” he notes. “But it was apparent we could do more to support and assist them. We could do that by gathering the insights of accomplished chefs who could share ideas on menu construction, food preparation, seasonal specialties and the like.”

So, with some additional research and planning, the idea for a GOLFNOW advisory board took shape, with Joe Martin as its inaugural member. Martin is the executive chef at The Country Club at Castle Pines, located in Castle Rock, Colo. He trained at the California Culinary Academy and comes to his new GOLFNOW role with two decades of experience, pleasing golfers in both the grill rooms and the formal dining rooms of prestigious clubs.

“With the club industry moving toward a more casual atmosphere, we have an amazing opportunity as culinary professionals to expand our offerings and creative parameters,” Martin said. “Through GOLFNOW’s Chef Advisory Board, we will be able to create a vast network of professionals who will communicate wins and losses in our attempts to please our memberships. As we move forward with this program, it will be a powerful tool for all culinarians not only trying to expand their knowledge, but also to provide a place to share products and ideas that will improve the overall club dining experience.”

As further such invitations are made, they will go not just to those with classic fine-dining credentials. “We’ll look for people who have succeeded and innovated throughout the casual dining niche, especially within golf,” says Hendrix. “For example, we’ll seek out great ideas for preparing and serving food for at-the-turn.”

Board members will pitch in with a certain number of original articles yearly for distribution via multiple websites under the GolfNow and NBC Sports umbrellas. Each of these would include one or more recipes appropriate to the menus of public golf courses. The terms of board membership include having the chefs available to assist the GOLFNOW team at the PGA Merchandise Show, the CMAA Show and perhaps the annual CRB event the Chef to Chef Conference. And their followings on social media will be leveraged, too—advisors will make social media posts on their Facebook and Instagram accounts, inserting attractive photos of their recommended menu items.

One obvious step beyond content that covers meals and snacks is information about trends at the bar, itself—the beverage part of food-and-beverage. As part of this program’s mission, advisors and GOLFNOW personnel will keep a lookout for new wrinkles and trends in cocktails, wine selections and the ever-changing beer market. It’s quite possible, according to Hendrix, that a sommelier or master mixologist will eventually find their way onto the board.

Rarified information and creativity from leading food professionals has a particular potency in public golf, according to Hendrix, given that well over 2,000 public golf facilities in the U.S. do not employ a chef with culinary training. That’s one of many reasons why the sharing of what’s learned will be industry-wide, not delivered solely to GolfNow partner courses or Ride participants. “This is a new path we’re going down,” Hendrix says, “and we’re interested in really putting it out there to the industry. A rising tide lifts all boats, is what it’s all about.”

Featured photo:  The Terrace restaurant at The Country Club at Castle Pines