View from the other side of the pond

Former CMAE President Arnaldo Cocuzza CCM shares his thoughts on moving from Europe to the Charlotte Country Club, one of the top 10 country club in the United States.

The club industry in the US is a mature one. The Club Managers Association of America (CMAA) is 90 years young and its Certification programme for Club Managers (CCM) was launched back in 1965. It’s a sector with a $20 billion income, a payroll of $9.3 billion and 197,000 full time employees split across some 2,500 managed clubs. It’s big!

So it’s been an exciting experience joining the team at the Charlotte Country Club (CCC) – and moving from Europe to America is certainly quite a transition, both personally and professionally. When I joined CCC as Director of Club Operations I knew it was critically important for me to understand the club culture, to learn the policies and procedures.

When working in Europe I always stressed the importance of Food & Beverage (F&B) operations –both as source of revenue and for member satisfaction and retention. So at the CCC, a club that is renowned for the quality of its food and service, I’ve been sure to fully immerse myself in the F&B operations.

Charlotte Country Club

Membership matters
Due to the Bi-law limitation of 720 Resident Members, we are very fortunate to attract top quality candidates for membership. The Resident Member category allows the entire family to enjoy the club facilities, so the total number of members we currently have is 3,422 and our waiting list is close to 50 families.

Club culture
The exceptional club culture is based on membership quality, respect for the rules and tradition, staff and management full engagement and outstanding quality of the facilities and service. There is a reciprocal respect and care between staff and members – I’ve actually defined this mirroring attitude as a ‘competition in kindness’! It genuinely feels like living in an extended family where the Members truly care about the employees’ private lives.

Food & Beverage Operations
Last year we served 11,180 lunches and 21,957 dinners, the dining experience being split between The Grill (47%), the seasonal outdoor Patio (28%) and the family oriented Dogwood (25%).

Staff are immaculately trained and – whether lunch or dinner – will deliver food along with club news, all the culinary details and employing all the golden rules of service. Our signature service is the ‘Member Name Recognition’ (and whenever possible the guest’s name as well).

Last year F&B contributed $5.2 million to the club, with Banqueting and Club events generating almost half of it. The largest event we ran was the Club Ball with 678 attendees. The Holiday season is our busiest time; between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve we manage 180 events!

The culinary team at CCC is always striving for excellence. There is no compromise on quality, and specials are regularly introduced to complement traditional favourites. The pastry section adds the final world class touch to our dining experience. I cannot emphasize enough how impressed I am by what our culinary team delivers.

Team work
Currently we have 220 employees – the most valuable asset of the club. We are blessed to have long serving staff members – some with more than 30 years of service – as well as extremely talented youngsters. And guess what they have in common? The commitment to deliver the best performance for the club and for members. There is a true engagement with our mission: ‘Our mission is to provide a personal, unparalleled country club experience highlighted by superior facilities and highly skilled professionals performing with gracious hospitality.’

Education, education, education
The CCC Board of Directors believes in the relevancy of education. We have a generous budget dedicated to conferences and learning opportunities. We are one of the few country clubs with nine CMAA members, all very active in the Carolinas Chapter and with participation in BMIs and World Conference.

We also have a very effective internship programme, designed to provide future industry stars with a 360 degree full experience in the club operation. A few of these talented students have been hired by the club and are now part of our management team.

If you were to ask me what my contribution to the Charlotte Country Club is, I’d probably have to ask my teammates and the members. But what I can say is that the European culture, professional background and my daily commitment is well perceived by members and staff. I am extremely proud to serve this world class club and to contribute to continuing to make CCC such a very special place.

Article published in Clubhouse Europe issue 11