The Epping Club’s CEO Peter Saez (pictured below) shares his take on the future of the club industry and its movement towards premium dining.
When the Epping Club went against the grain by introducing a new premium dining restaurant in a club in 2016, it was a bold move that shook the $5 schnitzel stereotype.
Since then, it’s become the start of a slow evolution for clubs, determined to position themselves as dining precincts that rival some of the Australia’s most iconic restaurants.
But what’s spurred this change? Well, the community is calling for more (or rather, in some cases less) from their local club.
The Eating Out in Australia report conducted by Intermedia shows how some of these changes in consumer behaviour are affecting the club industry. Clubs who responded to the survey were much more likely than other venue types to believe that the declining consumption of alcohol with meals was a significant trend (nearly 60 percent, compared to just 33 percent of pubs and 46 percent of restaurants).
This trend could represent a challenge for the industry, and a roadblock to profitability. So what can be done? It’s clear a change in approach is needed.
At the Epping Club’s Rawsons restaurant, we have taken the opportunity to review our beverage menu, taking it up a notch.
We’ve tapped into the public’s growing interest in different wine varietals, encouraging guests to enjoy food and beverage matches curated by our sommelier. We also host regular wine-maker degustations. Volume may be declining but the margins on more premium wine varietals and craft beer mean we’re able to maintain our profitability targets and offer our guests the choices and variety that they’re calling for. It’s a win-win.
The other issues that clubs noted in the Eating Out in Australia report – significantly greater than other hospitality venues – was the impact in staff turnover on the bottom line. This is an area I’m very passionate about. The survey showed that clubs are much better at retaining staff than other venue types, largely because they invest more in training. Only one-quarter of clubs say that high staff turnover affects profitability, compared to 40 percent of restaurants.
It’s simple: if you want good service you need good people. The Epping Club’s five star training program is a combination of both internal and external training that sees staff undergo a rigorous, structured program to deliver a world class quality of service. It’s what sets us apart and provides an identity for the club within the community of Epping.
Why bother? The future is bright for clubs that have their finger on the pulse of their communities. I believe this is why we are starting to see more diversity in offerings as clubs branch out into the premium hotel industry.
With this shift and increasing community investment comes a seat at the table in the city planning, helping structure the future of neighbourhoods and suburbs. As many clubs reside in suburbia, this voice allows them to work with other providers to create precincts that people want to eat, play and stay at. It’s a real opportunity, responsibility and a chance to give back to the community that supports your business.