Big club operator ClubCorp is going after special events in a big way. With a reported $1.6 billion in assets, the Dallas-based company owns or operates nearly 200 golf courses, country clubs, private business and sports clubs, and resorts. ClubCorp just named Kevin Brant, CPCE — most recently senior private events director at the company's Silicon Valley Capital Club in San Jose, Calif. — to the newly created post of corporate private events director. Here's what's behind the move:
SPECIAL EVENTS MAGAZINE: Why did ClubCorp create this new position?
KEVIN BRANT: We looked at how to maximize the potential of private events to drive revenue throughout our clubs. Although individual figures vary from club to club, we derive about 60 percent of F&B revenue from private events — such as business meetings, golf outings and wedding receptions. This is outside of the revenue from the events that we hold for members, such as wine tastings and holiday celebrations.
Q: What are your goals?
A: We want to increase membership and to get people using the clubs. John Doe may work for XYZ Co., which has offices in every major city across the country. John may be a member in Dallas, but when he travels to Denver, is he using the club there? We also want to attract the upper-level people who plan meetings, golf outings, etc., so they are aware of the clubs and are using the clubs. We're also looking at associations like NACE, MPI and ISES — meeting planners who are looking for that new, unusual venue that they haven't used before.
Q: What are some major trends in special events at private clubs?
A: Probably the main thing we're seeing is a significant increase in weddings; that will probably be our biggest area of growth this year and next. It goes back to the aftermath of 9/11, when family became very important. Where else to have your wedding but your family's club? Now, it's even going a step further, as people incorporate more and more events into their weddings, such as the rehearsal dinner and the day-after brunch, especially at our country clubs. We're also seeing more benchmark celebrations, such as 40th and 50th birthday parties.
On the business [event] side, we see a more educated, savvy businessperson. When they come to a meeting, they are very focused. They like the high-speed Internet access we offer, and video conferencing, which we've added to about 70 properties. But it's funny, even though the meetings are intense, they want more fun — such as interactive breaks, yoga, team-building exercises. That's something that we didn't used to see a lot.
Q: Did 9/11 and the resulting falloff in travel affect private clubs?
A: We definitely felt it. But luckily for us, we have a lot of loyalty with our members. We know them on a personal level, and we can help them and work with them on both business meetings and a wedding reception for their kids.
Q: How does the club work with a bride's own wedding coordinator?
A: We love wedding coordinators; they make our jobs much easier. Our private events directors are trained as wedding coordinators who take care of the guests from the minute they arrive until they walk out the door. The wedding coordinator does the big-picture stuff; we take care of you once you step on the property.
Q: Let's say a DMC or local planner who isn't a club member wants to use one of the properties for an event; how does that work?
A: Typically a nonmember would have to be sponsored by a member. Most of our private events directors have working relationships with a lot of DMCs and can assist with that process. There may be a bit of difference in the pricing for members and nonmembers; it varies club by club. For someone who begins using the club a lot, the private events director will say, “We love you, but we need you to become a member.”
Q: What makes private clubs good venues for special events?
A: The properties are so unique. Most have been around 20 and 30 years — one of our properties is 45 years old — and they have a strong heritage behind them. It goes back to our key message at ClubCorp: “Building relationships and enriching lives.” We have personal relationships with our members, so they feel comfortable about bringing family and friends in.
Kevin Brant can be reached at 972/888-7712 or via e-mail at [email protected].