Cottonwood was one of the few private courses around here that didn’t have a minimum on food and beverage – until just recently.
Change is always tough for people. We knew there was always going to be that 15 or 20 per cent of membership that just didn’t like it, but the reality of it is that if you want to be a member of a club, then that’s what you are and you support it.
Our attitude was that we’re going to make sure our food service is good, our staff is knowledgeable and the product is good.
It’s the reality of the business. The demographics include the retired group, a young corporate group, young families, people who are semi-retired, so some are not going to like it. On the other hand, there was a good chunk of people who came in and said, `What took you so long?’
With any change, you’re going to go through hiccups. We started preparing people for the minimum last November when we sent out a letter saying, `Here’s where we’re headed. The dues are going up – they have to, it’s the reality of the business – and we’re instituting a minimum spend.’
In February, we informed them what the value is and our minimum is $600 per year, or $900 if you’re a couple. At some places, that just includes food only. Here, it’s food, beverage, halfway house, beverage cart, etc.
Over the off-season, we took a look at what our members spend and there are some people who have already spent their minimum already and we’ve had snow here since opening. At the end of the year, there might be some who get a charge of some kind, but that’s just reality.
I think because they have friends at other private clubs, most people know about minimums, so the concept isn’t really new, it’s just new to them when it’s implemented.
I did a big survey of the whole market about what other clubs are doing. Some private clubs charge more, but they’re also open throughout the winter and we’re not.
It’s tough to compare yourself to other clubs. Some have dining rooms and we don’t, so it’s a matter of seeking out similar clubs in order to compare apples to apples.
The newer members and the transfers expect a minimum, but it’s some from Day 1 who resisted. We’ve tried to do a good job of communicating to members from the beginning.
We’ve really come to the plate on this, informing people that we really want you to support your club and asking them what they would like as far as the food and beverage operation goes.
When I looked at it, it really isn’t difficult to get to the minimum. One family came out for Mother’s Day Brunch and that was their minimum.
The whole thing was an education for me. I’ve known some people for 20 years and they don’t like change. I may have known them for 20 years, but I’ve got a business to run and a club to run where we want members engaged and wanting to be part of something.
We’ve got to do our jobs too. We can’t just slap down a minimum and then, not pay attention. Our staff has said, `Let’s just all get engaged in this thing and have fun with it.’
It’s a hot button topic for some people and it’s been a smooth transition by no means. It’s just a new reality and I’m not changing it.