Learn how Clubessential's Mobile Ordering software can drive member engagement, F&B sales and streamline operations.

Skokie Country Club realized they were missing out on opportunities for member engagement and F&B Sales. Then, they started using Clubessential's Mobile Ordering software. Skokie's Assistant General Manager, Derek Sidley, describes how Mobile Ordering has helped improved member engagement, drive new F&B sales, and streamline staff operations.

About Skokie Country Club

Established in 1897, Skokie Country Club has always been a respite from the demands of a bustling world. Located in Chicago’s North Shore, the club offers golf, tennis, swimming, and first-class dining. Most of all, though, Skokie offers a welcoming family atmosphere - just as its founders intended.

Recently, we spoke with Derek Sidley, Skokie’s Assistant General Manager, about how Clubessential’s new Mobile Ordering tool has helped his team deliver higher levels of member service. Along with the benefits of Mobile Ordering, we also discussed broader trends in the club industry regarding the adoption of mobile technology.

1. Why did you choose Clubessential’s Mobile Ordering software?

Derek Sidley (DS): It was a fairly easy decision. Our a la carte operation is huge for a club of 650 members. In fact, 78% of our food and beverage revenue comes from a la carte dining.

We had already been using Clubessential’s full platform of website and back-office software when we started to consider the Mobile Ordering software. We’d found that the Clubessential platform had really unified things at the club, and had definitely made things easier for the staff. Furthermore, we’d noticed that the Clubessential suite benefited our members, too. Our General Manager, Charles Scupham, also noted how easy it is for members to engage with our club now. He pointed out that members can make tee times and court reservations, pay their monthly statements, update their profiles and enter their to-go orders - all in one place. When you make it easy for members to engage with the club, they’ll take advantage of those capabilities as we’ve seen.

2. What were some issues you were trying to resolve with Clubessential’s Mobile Ordering?

DS: Along with the growth of a la carte dining, we also experienced a significant increase in members placing take-out orders. Although a lot of clubs don’t offer takeout orders, we chose to offer this service because we believed it would add value to our members. After we introduced takeout orders, they became incredibly popular. But our phone rang off the hook and servers had a hard time keeping up with the demand. They were trying to manage their section of the dining room, and kept running back to the phone to take down orders, and then send the orders to the kitchen. Meanwhile, members were getting frustrated because they were being put on hold before their to-go order could be handled. So there was a great need that wasn’t being met because the technology wasn’t there to help us facilitate things.

3. What has your experience been like using our Mobile Ordering tool?

DS: We use mobile ordering for our entire lunch and dinner a la carte menus. So it’s updated daily with new specials. We’re very active on the mobile ordering platform because more members use it each day. 

I often see members who are picking up to-go orders, and they’ll show off the mobile order feature to other members; they walk them through the app, and how easy it is to place an order. Members who’ve used it always tell me how easy it is to use. I even hear from senior members who will say, “It was so easy!” That’s a true testament to the product you’ve developed.

Just as importantly, Mobile Ordering has resulted in fewer phone calls that take our servers off the floor. That’s been an important time-saver. There’s a lot that goes into taking an order over the phone: transcribing it, verifying you got the order right, sending it to the kitchen - but we’ve cut down on all that now with Mobile Ordering. The fifteen minutes here and there that a server might save because they aren’t constantly fielding phone calls really adds up. It results in staff spending more time interacting with members on the floor. And, members don’t have to be put on hold, or call a second time because they couldn’t reach someone. So it’s been a positive experience all around. 

4. Let’s talk about club technology more broadly. Mobile technology is becoming more popular at clubs – what do you attribute that to? And how would you recommend clubs adapt to these trends?

DS: Times are changing and people are changing. At Skokie, we’re always trying to keep up with trends and do what’s best for our members. We have to consider how people want to receive information now. From what we’ve seen, people want automation and personalization. They’ve come to expect both. Clubs that aren’t actively using technology to incorporate automation and personalization into the member experience are really missing out. It comes down to the fact that we’re fighting for the discretionary spending of our members. However, the level of customer service you receive in a private club can’t be matched anywhere else. I know every one of our members by name. I know their kids by name. When they walk through the door I know what they like, what they don’t like, what their dietary needs are, and so on. Restaurants are dying to get that kind of information on their customers, but at Skokie Country Club we already know this stuff. As I said, though, times have changed and we’ve had to adapt, too. Seven years ago when I first arrived at Skokie, the only place you could use your phone was the parking lot. No cell phones in the dining room, or the locker room, or the golf course. We still disallow active use, meaning members can’t take calls in the dining room, but they can passively use them for making reservations or submitting mobile orders when they’re at the club. If clubs continue being restrictive about mobile technology, rather than embrace it, then they’ll just turn people off. We’re not in the business of pushing people away; we want to welcome them into the club.

Fortunately, our board understands this, and they see where technology can help us meet membership
needs that aren’t otherwise being met.

5. What are some other reasons Skokie Country Club has embraced technology?

DS: When Skokie was established in 1897, our founders intended that Skokie would be a family club. Skokie has always remained a family club at heart. It’s ingrained in everything we do.

That hasn’t changed, even though our member demographics are starting to. Over the last several years we’ve seen younger members join - members who are in their late 30s and early 40s, and who are married and who usually have two or three young children. Not only are they younger, these new members are also engaged with all aspects of the club. The spouses participate in our golf and tennis leagues while their kids are enrolled in our junior summer camps. And they’re all coming in for dinner pretty regularly.

As a result, our services have evolved as our membership has evolved. All of the good, forward-thinking clubs are doing the same thing. Clubs that aren’t focusing on the family are going to fall behind. There might be niches for men-only clubs, or clubs with very restrictive policies on cell phones or dress codes, but most clubs aren’t in that niche. Most clubs have to adapt to what members want in order to stay relevant.

6. If you were to recommend us, what would you say?

DS: I would recommend Clubessential pretty strongly - and have, actually. I think if a club is going for a unified suite of back-office, point of sale, as well as website and mobile tools, then Clubessential is way ahead of everybody else. That’s especially true now with the addition of Mobile Ordering. I think all in all, Mobile Ordering is a great product, and it would benefit any club with either a large a la carte operation, or one with busy members who want to place orders on their own time.


This post is based on an interview conducted and originally published in 2018.