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Cleavers No More--Modern Families Have Evolved, So Should Clubs

There is a story about a young bride who cuts off the ends of the roast before she places it in the pan to cook. When her husband questions why, she responds, “That’s how my mom does it.” The couple tracks the answer back to the young woman’s great grandmother; “I only had a small pan so I had to trim the ends for the roast to fit.”

Clubs today could trace decisions regarding capital building plans, policies, procedures, or systems the same way. Much of “we do it this way” have origins based on circumstances from another way of life. Clubs, generally, were designed for a family unit who lived in another time.

Imagine the club life for June and Ward Cleaver of the Leave it to Beaver television show – an idealistic suburban family of the mid-20th century. Upper-class raised June attended boarding school, married a young man Ward, who grew up on a farm, and they had two well-mannered boys – the ‘Beaver’ and Wally. Mr. Cleaver worked outside the home, kissing his wife goodbye each morning dressed in his suit and tie; and Mrs. Cleaver wore her pearls performing domestic duties. They had dinner together nightly around the table discussing the boys’ latest dilemmas, the worst of which may have been a misunderstanding at school with a friend.

Today, June is a busy soccer mom sometimes balancing career and family. Ward can work from anywhere – home or office. June is dressed casually and Ward wears his jeans. They communicate through text messaging, Skype, and Face Time. They make plans, reservations, and research vacation locales on an iPad using ‘apps’. The ‘Beaver’ sends 8,500 monthly text messages to his friends and uses the internet to complete his homework, all while posting updates on Facebook or Instagram. The boys have busy schedules, and their worries include intense competition for college, school violence, Internet bullies, and the pressure of “promposals”. Eating together is a luxury not often afforded, but the food choices are healthy as wellness is a priority to the Cleavers. Ward feels guilty taking 4 – 6 hours away from his life to play golf because his work has blended with his personal life due to technological advances. Technology is as commonplace as electricity in most homes. Away from their smartphones, Ward feels uncomfortable, his children become jittery, and June worries she is missing messages from teachers, friends, or family.

The collapse of the twin towers and the recession changed the Cleavers; they became more family centric and Ward was unexpectedly downsized, resulting in a fear of long-term contracts. Joining a club today requires careful deliberation about the value-time balance. The modern day Cleavers desire activities, programs, restaurants, gyms, cars, and homes that match their evolving lifestyle.

Our business sometimes feels rooted in the mid-20th century. We search for new members without recognizing the barriers to entry that are presented because of policies, which are in direct conflict with members’ casual, connected, drop-in, active, healthier lives. While some aspects of the club have evolved, dining spaces and events have been slow to change. We must provide options that suit the lifestyles we're living today because an active, engaged membership brings in new members.

Every club must know their strategic vision and brand. Aim to provide services and amenities that incorporate the strategy and protect the brand, while offering necessities of a modern day membership:

  • Casual, drop-in lifestyle lends itself to casual dining

  • Priority placed on wellness = impacts for fitness, dining, and activities

  • Family-friendly and adult-only space is critical

  • Activities and events for all demographics throughout the club will increase participation, thus revenues and satisfaction

Without advocating a complete overhaul, we can recognize how members today live their lives and seek opportunities to make them feel welcome, comfortable, and understood--all while still honoring the traditions of our history.

Whitney Reid, president of Reid Consulting Services, Inc. (RCS) is a celebrated management consultant, educator and speaker. RCS, the creators of Food and Beverage Service Boot Camp(TM), specialize in operations consulting, strategic planning, food and beverage management, and training programs. For more information, phone (623) 322-0773; or visit the RCS website at

Whitney Reid Pennell
 Founder & President

Whitney Reid Pennell is the founder and president of the award-winning RCS Hospitality Group (formerly Reid Consulting Services). She is a published author and widely praised seminar leader, with over 20 years of club operations management and consulting experience. 

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