Tech Innovation Amplifies Food & Beverage Options

The food-and-beverage operation at any given golf course can be a critical component to financial success or ruin. From snack bars to full-service restaurants, F&B always has been the great complement to the 18-hole round of golf, and savvy golf course operators always have been on the lookout for ways to creatively leverage their F&B offerings into profits. In recent years, technology has been a great partner in this pursuit, helping through sophisticated point-of-sale systems that control pricing, inventory, ordering and more. These days, the ways in which golf courses make such goods available has been a hot topic in the industry.

Takeout and delivery in one form or another has been around since ancient Rome, but the big consumer push really didn’t gain momentum in the U.S. until after World War II when American soldiers who served in Italy returned with cravings for a newly discovered slice of heaven – pizza. Soon everyone across the country craved this tasty disc of dough, sauce and cheese, which also just happened to be the perfect food to take with you or have it delivered.

Things remained pretty much status quo until the 1990s, when Pizza Hut launched Pizzanet, taking food delivery into the digital age. A host of start-ups soon followed, creating a brand-new industry now dominated by GrubHub, DoorDash and Uber Eats. Today, Americans spend more than $16 billion per month on food takeout and delivery. An impressive figure, indeed!

So, where does golf – specifically my facility – fit into all this consumption and spending?”

Technology can help, of course, and chances are you already have the tools to get started. But just having the tools can be tricky if they aren’t fully integrated. Too many kinks in the technology pipe can lead to hiccups in your system, resulting in staff frustration and poor customer service.

As with any good restaurant operation, accuracy, efficiency and speed are key to customer satisfaction. The newly minted and fully integrated SmartPlay technology by NBC Sports Next offers a great opportunity to expand your F&B offerings while meeting people where they spend a vast amount of their time these days – on their smartphones.

SmartPlay offers golf course operators a variety of flexibility when it comes to F&B strategy. The technology is built to run within NBC Sports Next’s G1 and EZSuite management platforms, as well as the EZTee Pro cloud tee sheet.

Golfers access SmartPlay technology through the GolfNow app. Not only can they search for, book and pay for a tee time in advance at any participating SmartPlay golf course, they also can pre-purchase pro-shop merchandise in the process. During play, golfers can place food and beverage orders through the app and either pick up their order at the turn or have it delivered anywhere on the course through GPS technology built into the app.

The possibilities don’t end there, as SmartPlay developers are continually innovating on more features that will make the golfing journey more seamless and fun. Courses also are jumping on the innovation train and coming up with their own unique offerings with the help of SmartPlay.

During the peak of COVID-19, Todd Creek Golf Club in Thorton, Colo., closed all seating at its on-site restaurant and bar as a safety precaution. By using the SmartPlay component of G1, the club was able to offer food through a full-service window and via delivery on the course. Taking the tech a step further, Todd Creek – understanding how the residents of its surrounding neighborhood were being affected by the pandemic – also offered the 55-plus community an option of picking up food  and grocery items from its clubhouse or having them delivered to their homes from a limited Food Pantry menu.

“SmartPlay worked wonders for our community pantry,” said Jeremy Casebolt, Todd Creek GC General Manager.

“Giving our community the ability to place their order online for pick-up helped ease the stress during these unusual times.”

Michael Fentress, PGA, and president of Virginia Beach Golf Management, recently rolled out SmartPlay as a customer service at his five public courses, which offer some of the best public play throughout Virginia Beach and Hampton Roads, Va. While a great benefit for golfers, he’s also been pleased to discover how the technology has boosted staff efficiency by streamlining food-and-beverage operations.

“SmartPlay technology makes the golfers’ experience so much better, and easier,” Fentress said. “Not only can our golfers check in and pay for a round on the GolfNow app but they also can use it to place their food or drinks order to be ready for them when they make the turn.

“It’s also a time-saver for us and eliminates potential backups and wait times at the turn because we can prep the orders in advance and have it ready for golfers to grab and go.” His customers agree.

Stephen Bolton from Virginia Beach is a regular at Red Wing Lake Golf Course because of its classic and challenging design. He recently discovered SmartPlay as a great way to satisfy his cravings on the course without losing his mojo on the course – as simple as pulling out his smartphone on the #9 tee box, opening the app and placing his order.

“What a great and easy way to order my food from the golf course and have it ready for me when I make the turn.”

When technology can help innovative ideas like SmartPlay come to life, it becomes a win-win for golfers and golf course operators. Much more than just for F&B, SmartPlay technology provides golf course operators with the tools and know-how to deliver a more customer-focused experience. Reduce phone traffic to your pro shop; gather important golfer data; pre-expose your golfers to pro shop merchandise, special offers, as well as food and beverage options; streamline the golfer check-in experience. These are just a few benefits.

Adding SmartPlay is free and is as simple as flipping a switch. Once installed, operators can see and manage every booking and every payment transaction in real time any time of day through their desktop computer and anywhere through a hand-held personal device. This fully integrated technology is creating easy and seamless experiences that are unmatched in the golf course industry. And the beautiful thing is that SmartPlay technology is built to grow and improve as more golf courses and golfers use it and share their experiences.