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The Importance of Strategic Architectural Design in Club Operations: Part 2

Happy Friday! Welcome to Part 2 of my piece on intelligent club design, which is a continuation of Part 1 that was posted last week. If you missed that, make sure to check it out here.

In that article, I opened with: STRATEGY MUST INVOLVE OPERATIONS.

I spoke about the fact that so often the actual design of a club, a kitchen, a bar, a hostess stand, the location of equipment or storage areas or even the offices can have a detrimental effect on long term operating costs and serve to frustrate those who must work within that poor design.

Then we walked through all the potential areas of concern within the food and beverage operation--things to think about, what to avoid, and how to strategically design your club so that it supports, rather than hinders, the execution of excellent service.

That was all in Part 1. Here in Part 2, I'd like to move on to the other areas of the club. Here we go!

Ladies' Locker Room

  • The Ladies’ Locker Room MUST have a full length mirror, hooks inside bathroom stalls for bags/caps, vanity areas where things can be plugged in, built in dirty towel bins, towel storage areas, amenity storage areas and a place for shoes. They need more and possibly different kinds of seating than men’s locker rooms.

  • Showers in the ladies' locker room should feature a changing or dressing room, a place to store their own shower amenities, and possibly some sort of step, stool, or ledge that will assist with shaving needs.

Fitness Areas

  • Did you lay out all of your equipment that requires an electrical connection BEFORE you installed your outlets?

  • Will your equipment feature individual TVs? If so, will you be providing earplugs or headphones should a member need it?

  • Yes? What is the procedure for that and where will they be stored?

  • Where will the remotes be stored?

  • Do you have individual cubbies for small items to be stashed such as keys, sunglasses, small bags, etc for those members who will not use a locker?

  • Do you have water available?

  • If you intend to use bottled water, where is the extra water stored?

  • If you use a water dispenser, who will refill it? Where do they have to go to do this? To clean it?

  • Do you have towel storage areas and bins?

  • Can members access their workout documentation if the club keeps it?

  • ​If so, how?

  • Is there a private stretching area?

  • Did you put mirrors by your free weights?

  • Did you put in the right type of floor for group exercise?

  • Are the multipurpose classrooms on different temperature, lighting, and music systems from each other?

  • Do you have spin bikes? Where will you store them when not in use?

  • Do you have a Pilates reformer? Is it in a private area? It probably should be.

  • Do you have fans in all areas?

  • Will you have items such as mats, bands, ropes, etc.?

  • If so, where will they be stored?

  • How and how often will they be cleaned, and by whom?

  • Will you offer sanitation stations throughout the fitness center? If so, what is required at each?

I could go on and on in this area….but you get the idea.


  • Will you offer floats, kick boards, etc.?

  • If so, where will you store them?

  • Do they need to be "checked out"? If so what is the procedure and who is in charge of monitoring that?

  • Do you have pool furniture cushions? Where do they go in the winter?

  • Where are your chemicals stored?

  • Will you serve food and beverages poolside?

  • If so, how will the servers find the member if he or she gets up and goes to visit with a friend?

  • Will you serve chocolate items at your pool cafe?

  • Do you have the proper refrigeration for it so that it doesn’t melt?

  • How many of you have added a COMMERCIAL fridge or freezer? OR are you trying to get it done with a RESIDENTIAL one because it was left out of the original plan?

  • Residential units are not meant to be used the way we use commercial units – frequent opening, large amount of product stored, a lot of cardboard, bags, etc. I’ll just say here: fire hazard, and move on.

Event Rooms

To be properly competitive today for business meetings or even weddings, event spaces should have adequate technology available.

Here are some ‘not to do’ items that I have seen frequently:

  • Floor plugs placed on dance floors that aren’t flush with the floor. If you don’t have a band or buffet sitting atop the plug, it can cause an accident.

  • A ‘hang down’ unmovable projector that is blocked by a chandelier which was placed between the projector and the screen.

  • Lighting or music not placed on their own switches.

  • Sound systems that sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher speaking.

  • Wall finishes or décor that get in the way of selling the space – large murals, loud colors, heavy drapery, etc.

  • Most people want a neutral space to work with for an event.

Event Lawns

Here are just a few items to consider that will make your event much smoother, reduce frustration by the members/guests and superintendent/grounds crew, and could possibly lower your labor cost for each event hosted on this site:

  • How will furniture be moved to and from that location?

  • Where will it be stored?

  • Without a flatbed cart, setting up a small wedding with a water station could take upwards of 40 trips and 16-25 labor hours or more!

  • If food is served there, is there a ‘staging area’ nearby?

  • Without this, food carts, warmers, or kitchen tables will be seen by the members/guests.

  • Also, don’t forget you will need the ability to have hand washing areas and a bussing station. Why not just build that when you can?

  • The added cost is bound to be less than the labor it will take to set up each and every time you use the space and will look quite a bit more attractive to your members and guests.

  • Is there electrical available for a DJ, musician, or simply a microphone and speakers for a wedding?

  • Would you ever need a generator for this space?

  • Is the walkway to the event space a cobblestone path?

  • If so, every cart that is taken across the path will be loud.

  • In addition, women in heels will struggle with it and elderly guests with canes, walkers, or wheelchairs will also have a difficult time.

  • Is the pathway lit?

  • If not, this will be an item that will have to be added to EVERY event that occurs after sunset.

  • How far are the restrooms from the event lawn? Will outside event groups be welcome here?

  • If there are no restrooms available, is it okay for outside guests to use member areas or will crowd pleasers have to be rented?

  • If crowd pleasers are the answer, where will they be placed?

  • What utility needs do they have?

  • This is a great thing to put in the first time instead of trying to retrofit it later.

  • Will a tent be used on the lawn often?

  • Appropriate tent stake placement may be considered at the beginning. Incidentally, while owning a tent sounds like a good financial idea, if you do not have the means to store it, set it up, or break it down correctly, it will be lost money in the end.

As you can see, I am passionate about service and an advocate for staff and managers to have what they need to be successful.

So often at RCS we are called on to fix service issues, timing problems, or inconsistencies. Nine times out of ten there are design flaws contributing to the inefficiencies of service areas or hindering the kitchen’s ability to keep their ticket times short.

So, if you choose an architect or design firm help you put your strategic plan together, don’t forget to have someone on your operations team or an operations consultant work with them to ensure the needs of the club are being met. Renovations and clubhouse design should be a collaborative effort. A detailed plan and agenda involving staff that will live and work with final design is critical for a successful implementation.

Our strategic process begins with understanding the club, how it operates, and what is expected by the members. We evaluate what is sacred, what must happen to service the different venues, achieve budgeted numbers, and create a strong service culture.

We look for what works and what doesn’t. This is a great way to ensure that your strategic plan is specific to you, and also helps with long-term plans for the club before you end up having to retrofit something down the road to achieve better costs or increase member retention.

Maybe the next time I get inspired I will compile a pre-renovation punch-list of a must “do” list instead of a “don’t do” list. Thanks for listening.


P.S. Again, if you missed Part 1 of this two-part series last week, make sure to check it out here. You'll be glad you did!


Whitney Reid Pennell, president of the RCS Hospitality Group, is a celebrated management consultant, educator, and speaker. RCS, the creators of Food and Beverage Service Boot Camp™, specializes in operations consulting, strategic planning, food and beverage management, and training programs for private clubs, fine dining restaurants, and luxury resorts and hotels. For more information, phone (623) 322-0773; or visit the RCS website at

#tips #remodel #renovation #strategicplanning #operations #reopen #advice #capitalplanning

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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