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Eight Tips for Turning Clubhouse Bar Into Profit Center From Interior Designer, Cook

By Daniel T. Nicholas

“When designing places where people can entertain, relax and play, it’s all about getting the greatest ‘return-on-environment'” – Club Designer, Dan Nicholas, AIA.

Pinecrest Bar Front

Casual atmosphere with tech-friendly features (Image: Mary Cook Associates)

The term ‘return-on-environment’ is one that Nicholas and Interior Designer, Mary Cook, both use. This shared philosophy has been central to their collaboration on clubhouse design and redesign projects.

As Nicholas pointed out in the article, “‘Profitable Public Golf Course’ is Not an Oxymoron,” creating an environment that draws non-golfing guests in for drinks, as well as one where golfers want to arrive to early and hang around in after is essential to revenue generation.

“While savvy club owners are eager to attract new customers, they also want to keep the ones they have with features that encourage them to linger.” – Mary Cook, Interior Designer.


Clubhouse bars act as a destination for members and a profit center for owners (Image: Mary Cook Associates)

Clubhouse bars act as a destination for members and a profit center for owners (Image: Mary Cook Associates)

Profit margins are tight in the hospitality business, but alcohol is a bright spot. With lower costs and higher profit margins than food, it offers operators an easy way to increase ROI, notes Restaurant Report.

But most significantly for the bottom line, alcohol acts as a sales lubricant in good times and bad since it can attract new customers or boost check totals for those who already frequent an establishment, notes the Sun Sentinel.

A bar alone is not enough. Smart, budget-efficient clubhouse design is an important way to accomplish this goal, according to Greenkeeping magazine.

eight elements of clubhouse design that can help transform a bar into a destination and profit center:

  1. Raise the Bar: It’s critical to create a space where cocktails and conversation flow naturally. Clubhouse design must be a response to how customers use the space, and executed accordingly. A long bar is good for individuals who want to come and be part of the scene without feeling pressure to interact, while smaller
    nooks and crannies can be configured encourage socializing. The goal is to create spaces that can easily amended by rearranging the furniture or adding new pieces when necessary. We’ve also found that the use of mirrors in a bar area helps to extend the space and enhances interaction. And don’t forget that a great bar area needs a charismatic, knowledgeable bartender who can connect with guests and make them feel welcome and wanted to keep them coming back.
  2. Customize the Details: Today’s generation loves walking into an environment that gives them an immediate sense of belonging. Attention to detail makes all the difference. In the bar at Chicago’s Hard Rock Café Hotel, we created a space tailored to the unique needs of those late night rocker customers—down to putting puncture-free fabric on booth risers to prevent stiletto heels from getting stuck. Custom is key, which is why it’s more important than ever to know your demographic.
  3. Cater to Casual: With an influx of millennial members, today’s clubs need to welcome young families and be prepared for their more casual lifestyles. Today, thriving clubs are renovating and converting formal dining spaces into more casual dining and bar areas, notes Jeff Morgan, CEO of Club Managers Association of America (CMAA). And with the hip, casual aesthetic and more relaxed rules comes technology. Old rules about cell phone use must be reexamined, and clubhouse hospitality areas may need to be adapted to today’s tech needs.
  4. Up the Amenities: To be profitable in today’s competitive marketplace, a good clubhouse design needs to add value with new features that keep long-standing members happy and attract new potential customers. Think about how the space is used throughout the day and determine what might be missing. Would members linger longer with a gourmet coffee bar, a ‘happy hour’ that includes teas and treats or intimate, outlet-enhanced alcoves where patrons could work and recharge their tech?
  5. Light the Mood: The same rules for lighting one of our award-winning model homes applies to lighting a clubhouse interior. A mix of overhead and ambient lighting can create an environment where people feel more inclined to stick around and engage. Lighting design should also be flexible, with options to dim as the atmosphere shifts from families grabbing a quick afternoon drink to couples and singles stopping by for an evening nightcap.
  6. Build a Flexible Stage: Good clubhouse design means understanding how members use the space. Flexibility and the ability to accommodate large groups at a bar area will mean they feel more comfortable staying. Stools should move around, swivel and be able to be configured in multiple ways. At the same time, the space must be flexibly designed so single patrons can stop by, relax and have a cocktail without feeling that they need to bring a friend.
  7. Make Music Work Right: Music can make listeners 24 percent less irritable, 25 percent more inspired , 16 percent more positive and feel closer to those around them, according to a new study from Sonos reported in Fast Company. And when it’s loud music, we drink more, adds Fast Company, while classical music makes us linger, notes Thrillist. Music should be tailored to match the the time of day and clientele to maximize sales opportunities, but it should also be tempered so guests can hear each other no matter how many people are in the space increasing the cacophony. Besides the right sound system, noise-easing carpeting, upholstery and drapes are important additions to the space.
  8. Embrace Change: After the last recession, club managers learned how important it is to be adaptable with clubhouse design, notes Restaurant Engine. Whether this is a clubhouse bar or lounge that mixes entertaining and dining, it is critical to reimagine spaces to meet the needs of today’s cohorts. One good trip to a newly reinvented clubhouse lounge or bar can keep them not only coming back, but keep the membership numbers strong.


About the Author

Daniel T. Nicholas — AIA

Market Leader - Club Design — Chicago

Dan Nicholas helps organizations fully realize their dreams for structured environments where people can entertain, relax and play.