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Working in Private Clubs: Some Do’s and Don’ts

By Lynne LaFond DeLuca

One of the many wonderful things about our special events industry is the many niche markets within it. There are literally hundreds of different creative partners who come together to create unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime events. Even if you are a small, independent business, or in our private clubs, a catering department of one or two people, you have a much larger “team” when you consider all of the different creative partners it takes to create and execute just one successful event. On the average, it is 43 vendors per event!

The one niche market I want to focus on today is the private club industry. Private clubs can be golf and country clubs, yacht clubs, business/city clubs, polo clubs, etc., and provide incredible venues for special and private events. In the private club industry, (as with most industries) our creative partner relationships are extremely important!

SHNY_Bar_Banquettes

Soho House, New York

Working in private clubs can represent a very lucrative relationship for creative partners willing to take the time to build and grow the relationship and explore the “do’s and don’ts” of working within this industry. The revenues to be gained from referrals from the Catering Directors at these private clubs are two-fold. First, they are referring and booking creative partner products and services for their members and event hosts’ private events such as weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, birthday parties, corporate meetings, showers, and sporting events. Second, the club itself is hosting events on a weekly basis for their members; everything from golf tournaments, wine maker dinners and themed dinner events, to events surrounding every holiday and occasion. The club itself throws parties every single week.

Unlike other public venues, hosting an event in a private club may pose a few extra considerations that some Creative Partners may not be aware of. So, here are a few “dos and don’ts” to keep in mind.

DO – Ask the club’s Catering Director to familiarize you with their club “lingo;” the culture and etiquette so that you can speak their language when working there. This will also ensure that you feel comfortable while in the club and on the grounds. Some clubs even have written guidelines specifically for creative partners that will help you to feel comfortable in terms of dress codes, where you can and cannot go on the grounds (some areas are “member-only” areas). No one likes to make mistakes that could be avoided! Also, clarify job titles. Catering Directors at clubs can also be called Private Event Directors or any number of variations. Clarify who your contact is. Also, sometimes the Catering or Private Events Director is also the person planning the events that the club is hosting for the members, but not always. Sometimes, the person planning the member events is a “Member Services” or “Member Relations” Director. Sometimes it is even the Membership and Marketing Director. This is important so that you know if you have one or two contacts at the same club.

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The Silencio Club in Paris, conceived by film director David Lynch

DO – Speak to each club’s Catering Director BEFORE you step foot on the property for each event. Make sure you know where you can load in and load out; time frames for doing so; where photographs can be taken and where they cannot; dress codes; security gate procedures and “member etiquette.”

DO – Take the time to find out what type of club it is – member owned or non-member (corporate) owned. Member-owned clubs are not “revenue-driving focused” like corporate clubs are. They are just looking to provide the very best experience for their members and event hosts (these clubs have a non-profit tax status). Corporate-owned clubs are looking to drive revenue and make a profit! This is important to know when looking for form strategic partnerships. You must know what their goals are.

DO – Strive to grow your relationships through in-person networking and social media. Although many private clubs are restricted in their social media presence due to their tax status, most clubs are present in some form of social media.

Boodles Club, London

Boodles Private Member’s Club in St. James, London

DO – Reach out often and with purpose to the private clubs in your area. Call to make an appointment to visit the club. Private Club Catering Directors are looking to build relationships with quality creative partners.

DON’T – Assume that a private club’s rules are just like any public venue, like a hotel.

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The Country Club at DC Ranch, Scottsdale, Arizona

DON’T – Assume that just because a club is private, that your clients cannot host events there. Again, this is determined by the club’s ownership type. Even the most private of clubs can sometimes allow non-members to host events at the club if they are member-sponsored. Some clubs will even help your clients find a member sponsor for their event.

DON’T – Be afraid to ask questions if you are not sure about a club’s policy.

Last, as with any win-win relationship, DO ask your club contact (usually the Catering Director or Member Services Director) how you can help them – what do they need from you in order to sell and upsell more effectively? How can you help them to create exceptional member events? What type of collateral/samples do they need at the club in order to share your information with their members and events hosts?

Private clubs can provide a wealth of referrals and business for all creative partner types in our industry, and they are waiting for your call!

Featured door image: Courtesy of SteelAppeal.com

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Lynne LaFond DeLuca

Lynne LaFond DeLuca is the Executive Director of the Association of Club Catering Professionals (ACCP). She has worked within the private club industry for 25 years, and founded the ACCP in 2011, providing training, education and resources to catering professionals in the private club industry. In 2014, Lynne was honored to be named “One of the Most Influential Women in the Private Club Industry” For more information, please contact Lynne at Lynne@TheACCP.com, or visit the website www.TheACCP.com. Follow the ACCP on Twitter: @ClubCateringPro; FB: Association of Club Catering Professionals

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