How will automation affect the private club world?
A constant conversation with board members and management staff at all levels is the challenge of providing consistent levels of service in an increasingly difficult employment environment. There is much discussion regarding increasing the pay for existing staff, hiring a better-quality employee or importing employees from outside the United States (H2B or J1 visa). Those are short-term solutions for a long-term problem. Boards and senior managers looking strategically 5-10 years in the future should be discussing automation.
Many fast food and quick serve restaurants are operating successfully in this space and many of your members accept, and even prefer an automated process outside of your club. It will not be foreign to them, and in my opinion, can provide a higher level of member satisfaction. The proper use of technology can, and will, raise the bar of hospitality in the industry. The reality will soon be that the most redundant operations will be automated to provide a consistent, timely product. This will leave your best employees the ability to spend MORE time with the members (and the clubs will have the ability to compensate them properly). If the best employees spend their entire shift covering for weaker employees and ‘putting out fires’ on the property instead of spending more time with members, the members ultimately leave the club for a “better run” organization only to find the same scenario plays itself out in most clubs daily.
Looking even further down the road, we see Artificial Intelligence (AI) on the not-too-distant horizon. This will be another game-changer to the club industry, but that is for another discussion…
Private clubs are not necessarily known to be on the cutting edge of technology or society, and that is what has made them special, unique, and coveted. Clubs have always served as a bastion from the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life. I believe automation; if used intelligently, can INCREASE member satisfaction and provide members more of what they want: consistency and personal attention. The market is over-saturated with private clubs and many struggle on a daily basis. As the industry evolves these private clubs must evolve or die. How many clubs are capable of embracing the evolution and paving the way for the club of the future?