“Never let a good crisis go to waste” has been attributed to Winston Churchill in reference to the conditions post the Second World War.
Clearly, circumstances in life produce opportunities and it is on that occasion when it is time to be the most creative. The Coronavirus situation is clearly being taken very seriously and the fear of contagion is without question serious and on the minds of all private club members.
It can be speculated that, for at least the near future, private club members will be possibly staying closer to home and away from gatherings of people. Even “their people” (club staff and fellow members) may be a gathering that gives the members pause. Going out to the club may be impacted by the current Coronavirus situation, for the immediate future.
One question that comes to mind is “how can private clubs be more valuable to their membership” without them actually coming out to the Club?
During this time, one thing is for certain – members are going to eat. The private club consumer is also a consumer that enjoys having their food prepared on their behalf. Eating at their private club is an experience for which many affluent consumers enjoy on a consistent basis. However, for the short time being, there may become some reluctance to go out to the club to dine.
Uber Eats has been dominating the world well before the Coronavirus became a concern for consumers. Like Uber, all payments are handled through the Uber app and there is no exchange of cash required. Consumers love that feature. Private club members will too!
Private clubs can offer the identical features and benefits of Uber Eats with member billing. Simply call the club, place your order and then swing by the Club and pick up your warm food order. Your charges will simply be added to your monthly club bill. Sounds easy and quite compelling during this time of caution.
For tax exempt private clubs does this concept of takeout food violate the spirit of how members will socialize together at their private club? Certain private club consultants will scream “absolutely YES!” in their monthly newsletters and how “takeout violates the concept of a tax exempt private club.” However, in my judgement, when things are going wrong it is time for outside the box thinking. And necessary solutions may be found outside the usual norms of the private club industry when we are in fact dealing with the abnormal.
It's also something we see more of our clients doing. At a recent site visit to a club I noticed two parking spots close to an entrance door marked specifically for to-go orders. When I inquired further the General Manager told me that there was a camera feed in the kitchen focused on those two spots. When a member pulls up for their order, a staff member sees them and brings out their order. They never even have to exit their vehicle!
The tax statute, for Tax Exempt Private Clubs, also specifically states “social clubs are membership organizations primarily supported by dues, fees, charges or other funds paid by their members.” Clearly, takeout food sales, although not consumed on premises with other members at other tables in the food and beverage operation, meet the criteria of income derived from their members. But, when your private club may be viewed as a place to not associate takeout may be a very compelling way to enjoy funds paid by their members.
Let’s take advantage of an opportunity that has presented itself to meet the needs of your private club members. Reach out to your members and welcome them out to your club. Share with them the fact that their club is a safe environment for them to enjoy. But, also recognize that your club can provide your members a benefit that they can enjoy should they chose to be “on the safe side” with your takeout. Your kitchen is open and there may be less members, directly, in your club dining rooms but due to your outside the box thinking your food sales can continue to be strong.