The world-class golf available at Troon’s 270 worldwide clubs is matched only by its restaurant offerings.
Five years ago, the top features members and guests wanted out of Troon clubs were all golf-related. But as the nature of leisure time changes and families become more involved in each other’s activities, customers need more. At many locations, food and beverage and speed of service have even surpassed golf amenities on the list of priorities.
“We’re seeing a shift in the offerings that people are looking for at our facilities and clubs in general,” says Carlos Acosta, corporate director of food and beverage for Troon. “It’s not strictly for the golfer. It’s more of a family affair where the spouses and children are involved.”
Fifty-seven of Troon’s properties have received a “top 100” ranking by various golf publications, but customers are no longer content with a good round of 18. They want a place where they can bring their family for a good weekend dinner or to host colleagues for a productive work lunch. “Through those changes the spotlight has shifted over to our restaurants,” Acosta says.
“Our goal is to become the primary dining destination of choice for the guest,” he adds.
Teed Up for Growth
Acosta started his career in the hospitality industry as a busboy. After three decades of moving up through the ranks, he was offered a role at Troon five years ago. “I saw a company that was growing quite rapidly with a big future for even more sustained growth,” he says. At Troon, Acosta’s role is to help restaurants develop business acumen, ensure properties have proper staffing, set standards for service and measure benchmarks for success.
The other force behind Troon’s restaurant management is Vice President of Food and Beverage John Bartilomo. Bartilomo is a 35-year veteran of the industry, having worked in culinary positions at numerous restaurants around the country and as the executive chef of the former 8700 Restaurant in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Less than half of Troon’s 270 global golf destinations have their own restaurants, some of which are managed by Troon’s resort partners. In all, Troon has about 90 restaurants under its authority. Most are located at the company’s North America resorts but a few are attached to Latin American golf clubs. In addition to its golf resorts, Troon manages a number of independent restaurants such as Pineapple Grill in Maui.
Clubs and restaurant owners that enlist Troon tend to stick with the company long-term. Troon has a 96 percent retention rate year-over-year. “The high retention percentage that we enjoy is a true testament to the results we get in general,” Acosta explains.
This year, Troon will help launch 4ORE Golf, a 52,000-square-foot golf entertainment complex in Lubbock, Texas. The facility features a driving range with 60 climate-controlled tee boxes and point-based targets on a turf field. There will be a full-service sports bar and grill for 350 guests, as well as outdoor patios and a cocktail lounge. “We’re embarking into a larger arena,” Acosta says.
4ORE Golf represents a new kind of customer for Troon. “I know it’s going to be very entertaining and interactive because of the simulated golf, and the games will appeal to all demographics,” Acosta says.
However, the different atmosphere requires a new kind of service. The millennials 4ORE Golf will target don’t like to be tied up, Acosta explains. A group might get 45 minutes into their game and then decide to head to a bar. “That’s an opportunity we have to really understand what the millennials are requesting,” he says. “And how do we shift to accommodate their needs.”
The company needs to train 450 associates for the 4ORE Golf entertainment complex before it opens this spring. Luckily, Troon’s food and beverage division has an extensive training program that not only ensures employees learn their roles but prepares them to move up in the company. “We created a food and beverage certification program,” Acosta says. “It’s based on industry standards, a checklist of all the skills needed for a each position.”
The program is designed to train employees from the server level up through management. By tracking each person’s progress and certifications, the program can match qualified employees to openings at any property – providing further opportunity for advancement. Employees can even access their certifications from an intranet portal to help them see their training progress and what skills they need to prepare for higher positions. “We encourage upward mobility within the company,” Acosta adds. “Retention is great because they’re getting a proper education in their positions.”
Troon’s investment in training results in a highly professional and capable workforce, Acosta says. “Even though it might not be a five-star restaurant, that doesn’t mean we don’t hire a five-star staff.”
Troon is a third-party management company, so it does not enforce corporate mandates for its restaurants. Instead of dictating which suppliers and what products chefs may use, the company developed vendor-recommended programs with suppliers such as Sysco. These provide some of the purchasing power benefits of a centralized procurement structure while still allowing restaurants the flexibility to source produce and meats to create unique dishes.
Having those vendor-recommended programs enables Troon to promote products to its restaurants, such as Jackson Family Wines, and secure access to quality items like Certified Angus Beef. “There’s some merit for them [vendors] to be able to look at it and say ‘Wow, here’s a large company with a lot of programs for us to participate in,’” Acosta says. “It helps us leverage so we recommend they use these programs to benefit the club and keep costs down.”
Troon updates its vendor programs based on what offers are available from suppliers. If a distributor has a special going on in one market, Troon notifies that region’s clubs so they can take advantage of the better pricing. Restaurants also have the option of procuring food from local farmers, an increasingly important element for diners who care about sustainable food practices.
Local sourcing is an example of how today’s customers are passionate about wanting to know as much as possible about the food they consume. The rising demand for organic produce and hormone-free goods is part of a larger trend toward more natural food products. At some clubs, Troon is going beyond its restaurants to provide those options to its guests. In Scottsdale, for example, a local farmer sets up a mini farmer’s market at the club on Sunday mornings.
“The accessibility to good quality produce is becoming more mainstream than taboo,” Acosta says about the farmers market. “It’s a benefit that we offer and I think more and more you’re going to see programs like that.”
The form those kinds of food programs take differs at each club. A smaller, boutique restaurant is more likely to adopt local sourcing and organic items than a high-volume establishment that turns over 300 guests during the two-hour lunch window.
Restaurants are encouraged to develop dishes that cater to their region’s culinary heritage. A club in Ohio might make a corn chowder while properties on the coasts are better known for their walleye and other seafood. Meanwhile, the signature dish at a club in Southern California features a 32-ounce bone-in rib eye, presented on an elongated cutting board with brussels sprouts, bacon and croquette potatoes. The steak is $72 but meant to be shared between two people.
“You add a couple of salads and a bottle of wine and you’ve got a nice experience,” Acosta says. “We know it’s one of the items that’s going to bring them [customers] in and it has perceived value.
“The key is getting them into the establishment and once they’re in there, create a memorable experience that turns them into loyal patrons,” Acosta says.