For many golfers who frequent golf resorts around the country, the most important part of the course isn’t necessarily a slick green or drivable par-four hole; it’s the beverage cart.
A beverage cart is just what its name implies: a vehicle—generally larger than a golf cart—specifically designed and outfitted to traverse a course offering anything from soft drinks to Bloody Mary’s to sandwiches and extra golf balls.
Done correctly, a beverage cart—or carts—can significantly increase revenues to a property’s food and beverage operations. On the flip side, operating without a beverage cart can impact a guest’s golf experience and could be a determining factor in repeat play during that visit or another visit.
Resorts with successful beverage cart operations, according to Bobby Barnes, director of golf at Innisbrook, A Salamander Resort, in Palm Harbor, FL, can see revenues anywhere from $75,000 to $150,000 per year.
“On busy days (more than 100 golfers) it is imperative to schedule two beverage cart attendants—one per nine holes,” Barnes said. “If this is not done, it would be impossible to see a guest more than a few times due to how long it takes to make a round with a lot of golfers on the course.”
Derek White, general manager of Desert Willow Golf Resort in Palm Desert, CA, said that on average a beverage cart creates more than $5 in sales per round to the facility.
“We also require beverage cart staff to wear clothes that can be purchased from the pro shop to encourage retail sales and create brand awareness,” White said.
Staffing a beverage cart is a key component to success, meaning training a beverage cart attendant is equally as important as training any other golf staff employee—perhaps even more so given the amount of times the attendant interacts with golfers.
“Being a beverage cart attendant is quite a specialty in F&B,” said Eric Allain, general manager at Tranquilo Golf Club at The Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World. “There are many nuisances to be considered when on the golf course to be efficient, productive and profitable.”
Training, Allain said, typically is handed down from one experienced attendant to another and ‘on the job’ training is the norm. “The trainee needs to learn what product to stock on the cart, when to take your break, and how to gain a general understanding of the game and etiquette of golf to avoid getting in the way of play,” he said.
At Desert Willow, White said, each employee, including beverage cart staff, attends the proprietary KemperSports TrueService training to lay the foundation for the service culture required at the resort and KemperSports-managed properties nationwide.
“We use a four-day training system that trains staffers on verbiage, communication, selling tactics, food storage, computer training, inventory and sales sheet processes, cart maintenance, uniform expectations, storage and visual merchandising of products,” White said. “New employees ride with another beverage cart attendant on each of the three shift assignments to understand their roles.”
That training, according to White, creates a culture of outstanding communication.
“We send tee time confirmation emails to set expectations from the start, which includes information on the restaurant, snack bar and beverage cart hours of operation,” White said. “When guests arrive to check-in, we clarify their access to beverage cart service in the golf shop, on the first tee, and with cart GPS messaging for last call. Consistent driving patterns, utilizing two-way radios, and efficient delivery from the beverage cart staff ensures we have every opportunity to exceed guest expectations.”
Here are a few other keys White uses to ensure having a successful beverage cart operation:
• Engaging staff that understand the etiquette of the game.
• Proper maintenance of the beverage carts keeps the carts available for effective and efficient movement around the course.
• Communication with the golfer regarding other activities and specials taking place around property helps increase the attendance in other revenue centers.
• Creating pairs on items assures they are available on each cart.
“We decide how many beverage carts based on the anticipated golfers and hours of daylight,” White said. “We have three beverage carts running on our two courses at peak times. At our slowest time of the year, we have at least one beverage cart each day. Most of this equation is based on the golfer seeing a beverage cart at least two times during their round.”
What are the "staple” items of a beverage cart and some "impulse” buy items that help increase revenue?
“A full selection of soft drinks and beer, liquor, mixers and garnishes, quality sandwiches, whole fruit, snacks and candy and quality cigars are just a few of the basic items that need to be on the cart,” Allain said. “Some impulse buys might be a signature Bloody Mary pre-mixed in bulk for the morning rounds (virgin to start and then add the vodka), a popular local craft beer or two, a small but nice selection of Scotch for the afternoon and late afternoon rounds.
“These impulse items can be very regional and in keeping with the resort or club ‘theme.’ A couple of items that most carts do not stock but may be worth having would be a small selection of golf balls, 9v batteries for range finders, a small selection of cigarettes and other items that occasionally get asked for but are seldom stocked. Of course, frozen towels in a small cooler for the hot summer days are always welcome, as are hand warmers in the colder months. A small stash of pencils, scorecards and extra cart towels should always be onboard.’’
At Innisbrook, Barnes said soft drinks, water, beer and spirits are the best sellers, as well as snacks, hot dogs and sandwiches.