How do you make a private members club a destination? Aaron James, one of the leading club managers in our industry, believes it’s all about creating a sense of community. His experience at facilities from the global Club Med to Atlanta’s Cherokee Town and Country Club forced him to realize that member service is key to creating a destination.
The Country Club of Asheville, one of the oldest and most established clubs in North Carolina and the nation, is now the focus of James’s efforts, where he has been general manager for the past year. With 650 members and $1.3 million in food and beverage and 25,000 rounds of golf per annum, Country Club of Asheville is a large club.
Owned by McConnell Golf, an active holding company with sixteen properties in its portfolio, the Country Club of Asheville is a leading club in terms of golf and hospitality. McConnell Golf, although based upon an initial love for golf courses and Donald Ross’s final design in North Carolina at Raleigh Country Club, has created a stable of elite country clubs based on hospitality. Their quarterly magazine, located here, shows a passion for golf and private members clubs rarely seen at such a high level.
McConnell golf hosts the PGA Tour’s tournament The Wyndham but focuses on its members and families. A member of Asheville has reciprocity with 16 clubs and courses across the Southeastern United States.
The Statistic Behind Community
Seventy percent of members who resign from a club are not engaged, whether it’s LA Fitness or an elite golf clubs says the young general manager. James spends time in the restaurant introducing members to each other and says the bar is a tool for maintaining a social connection and is the most social part of the entire club. You could almost say the club’s bar is like the TV Show, Cheers, where “Everybody Knows Your Name.” Just like Sam behind the bar in the fictional Cheers knew every regular, so should the club manager who is key: he or she is at the center of building a community.
James is still working on how he will grow a program introducing new members into the coterie of friendships that comprise the current and established membership. Quarterly new member events are on his agenda, even though he already has an onboarding program for every new member.
A Changing Menu Every Two Weeks
Asheville’s head chef changes the menu twice a month. Every two weeks James faces a new menu, with the best-selling regular items but adding new items. That’s quite a challenge for any food and beverage staff, but James says both his membership and the staff are attuned to the bi-monthly change.
From his background in and love for health and fitness to his passion for member service, James is creating a destination at Country Club of Asheville, where everybody knows your name. “You’ve got to have that type of personality that brings people together,” says James in summary. Come and have a listen to better understand his philosophy and some of his secrets behind his success.