Why Every Club Should Have a Dining Master Plan

Your members will spend more time at your club if they enjoy their dining experience.
Your members will spend more time at your club if they enjoy their dining experience.

One of the biggest challenges in master planning club facilities is differentiating the various dining offerings a golf and country club has to offer. For many clubs with a main kitchen facility, all or most of the food is prepared in one place with one culinary team. This often leads to all the food tasting the same, looking the same and being the same. The opportunity exists in almost every club to add diversity in menu themes, pricing and atmosphere to give members more reasons to use their clubs for dining.

Let’s face it, traditional mixed grills with their open bars have become obsolete and so has the food served in them. Private clubs have to innovate with new dining offerings if they are to compete with the plethora of trendy restaurants that are in the vanguard of where members frequent as their “Favorite Dining Places”.

Each club dining offering should be complementary to a club’s entire dining strategy, not a direct competitor. The goal of every club should be that of being “one of their members four or five favorite dining places”. Yet today only 42% of members consider their club’s dining offerings as a favorite place, while 92% want it to be. 

Every major club should be able to offer:

  1. The trendy casual grill for families with televisions, adjacent but separated bar/lounge, open kitchens and connected family alcoves for families with young children with more reasonable pricing.
  2. An upscale, more adult bistro dining offering.
  3. A Starbucks type coffee lounge gathering place for all day very casual dress adjacent to fitness/wellness facilities.
  4.  The most popular covered, outdoor casual dining offering used for a good six months of the year with porch fans, heaters and an adjacent bar area.
  5. The men’s grill as another special locker room place for men and similar facilities for women like in Texas.
  6. Halfway house and pool area snack bar dining offerings that have limited menus, quick food service offering specialty items (such as the best hot dog at Butterfield in Chicago and Bobby’s fried egg sandwich in St. Louis) and swimming pool food with some imagination in addition to a tiki hut place for adults to hang out, offering resort style poolside service.
  7. And while we are talking about club food, why not be sure the staff dining room has good food too. Afterall, it is the waitstaff which sells the food to the members.



Let’s become innovative with our dining outlets. For fifty years now we have been giving members the same mixed grill experience, and members are tired of it. Energize your culinary team to make what is arguably the members’ most important club offering truly one of their favorite places at your club. Let McMahon help master plan your dining concepts. 

Now it’s time to master plan your entire dining concept, not just its facilities. 

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About Bill McMahon, Sr. AIA, OAA

Bill is a strategic, financial and architectural planning consultant to clubs throughout North America. He established McMahon Group in 1983 as an affiliate of the family architectural firm his grandfather founded in 1906. Over the ensuing years, the firm has expanded its club consulting services beyond clubhouse improvement planning to a full range of services for all aspects of private club challenges. To date, the firm has assisted more than 2,000 private clubs across the United States, Canada, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean. McMahon Group provides a unique approach to developing club facility projects first establishing design and financial feasibility so membership approval is achieved. Thereafter final design and construction firms are selected to build the member approved project.

Mr. McMahon is unique among club consultants in providing an integrated strategic, financial and architectural approach to solving club problems. His personal involvement with his own clubs in St. Louis (serving in the roles of president, board member and committee member) has allowed him to bring unparalleled experience to each client. Mr. McMahon’s club memberships have included Bellerive Country Club (St. Louis), Racquet Club Ladue (St. Louis), University Club of St. Louis, Spring Lake Yacht Club (Michigan) and the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania.

Mr. McMahon is a graduate of Washington University School of Architecture in St. Louis and holds architecture licenses in 44 U.S. states and in Ontario, Canada. He is a featured author in industry publications and a featured speaker at the annual conferences of the Club Managers Association of America, the Canadian Society of Club Managers, the National Club Association and the Hospitality, Financial and Technology Professionals. He serves as a visiting lecturer at continuing education sessions offered by regional CMAA chapters and at Michigan State University. Bill is a co-author of McMahon Club Trends®, the comprehensive research reports on strategic issues facing private clubs published with the National Club Association. He is also founder of the Excellence in Club Management Award.

Mr. McMahon is a member of the American Institute of Architects, and the National Club Association. He is a former president of the Missouri Council of Architects, AIA and has served on various charitable boards in the St. Louis area.

More articles by Bill McMahon, Sr. AIA, OAA