Retail Traffic

Aiming For a Perfect Score

The Clubhouse is looking to sink a hole-in-one in the minds of its customers by making them "feel like a million bucks" every time they walk in the door.

The new restaurant/retail concept aims to provide a luxurious environment for everybody, says president Keith Rudman, but, he adds, customers can eat a hamburger for $7, a chicken dish for $10 or a fish entree for $12. "We want customers to really feel like they are enjoying the good life, but at a very moderate price.

"The good life he refers to is the private-club atmosphere that traditionally has been reserved for a select few. The Clubhouse, however, makes this private world of privilege available to everyone. All customers are considered members, servers are called pros, and there are no dues or fees involved, Rudman says.

The 20,000 sq. ft. venue combines individual dining and banquet areas with a 1,000 sq. ft. Pro Shop that features exclusive Clubhouse brands as well as co-branded merchandise from Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, Nicklaus and Ashworth.

The project began in 1996 with a design trip across the country and throughout Europe where clubhouses and architectural buildings were visited and thousands of pictures were taken.

"If you came into The Clubhouse," Rudman says, "you would see a combination of very traditional elements and architectural details but also some very fun details that really bring this into the new millennium. It is our interpretation of what a clubhouse would look like today.

"The Clubhouse's design reflects the warmth and familiarity of a long-established private club. A Georgian-inspired facade of red brick and limestone as well as mahogany French doors highlight the exterior, while an underlit, alabaster-topped Grand Bar, curved grand staircase, custom-made furniture, and moire and velvet upholstery create the interior environment. Each room has its own feel at The Clubhouse, Rudman says, but similar details are evident throughout.

Regardless of where a member dines, the same basic, 100-plus item menu is featured, Rudman says, adding that nothing costs more than $19.95. The Clubhouse concentrates on classic American dishes and traditional club fare, including Texas beef and bean chili, spicy "firecracker" shrimp, Tournament Player's Cobb salad, grilled ham & Swiss club, chicken pot pie, spaghetti and meatballs, Southern-inspired pecan catfish, filet mignon and prime rib. For those looking for surf and turf-type items, a premium menu with prices ranging from $21.95 to $69.95 also is available.

The eclectic nature of the menu carries over to the clientele, too. "We truly believe The Clubhouse is for everybody," he says, adding that it is not unusual to see families, businessmen, young couples and senior couples dining there. Blue jeans, dinner gowns, business suits and casual wear also can be seen at the restaurant, he says. Children receive special treatment with a junior menu, game boards to play and a free take-home gift.

"We've created an environment where we can appeal to a very broad demographic," Rudman says, which along with strong, repeat business make up the two elements that are key to success.

In the upscale/casual restaurant niche, "we provide a beautiful environment to be in [as well as] food and service that is beyond our price point," Rudman says.

The Clubhouse opened its flagship restaurant in December at Oakbrook Center in Oak Brook, Ill., and plans to open one more this year and four in 1999. The goal, Rudman says, is to have 35 locations by the year 2002, with 26 opening in the United States and nine overseas. While the company plans to own its restaurants in the United States and London, it is considering franchising in other locations overseas.

In its site-selection process, The Clubhouse seeks upscale demographics with a corporate and retail presence. The company looks for a prominent location on the exterior of a center where it can create its own image, Rudman says, adding that the concept would work either in a mall location or in a retail/business area where it can be freestanding.

With a definitive goal and a concept above par for even the most discriminating customer, The Clubhouse may well be on the right course to making a name for itself in today's restaurant/retail playing field.

Botanical Scents of Nature Enterprises Corp. already has smelled success with its cart concept, but the Miami-based company wants to make a more lasting impression in shopping centers everywhere.

Since opening its first cart five years ago, the company has grown to approximately 80 units. But in the next eight months to a year, it plans to more than double its presence with an additional 100 to 120, says president Luis Urcuyo.

"We expect to be in just about every mall in the nation," he says. Botanical Scents of Nature is working closely with shopping center developers and specialty retail management companies, planning to open multiple locations on a more long-term basis. The company, formerly known as Scents of Nature, recently became partners with one of its suppliers, All Natural Botanicals, a Tampa, Fla.-based manufacturing firm. As a result, the carts also will undergo a name change.

The carts featurenatural air fresheners, aromatherapy accessories and oils, with more than 60 fragrances of hand-dipped incense sticks and cones as well as a variety of potpourri scents. Ceramic diffusers in various shapes and sizes, wood incense holders, and fragrant lamps round out the line.

Urcuyo credits early success with the merchandise to an increasing awareness of aromatherapy. "More and more people are becoming aware of the aromatherapy, the incense and the fragrances, and of all the ... ancient history of it," he says.

Botanical Scents of Nature targets shoppers of all ages. "The great advantage of our product line is that it appeals to every gender and age group because of its novelty and affordability," Urcuyo says.

The company started in September 1993 with one cart in Bayside Marketplace in Miami. Today, the carts are owned by both the corporation and independent resellers. Unlike a franchise operation, Urcuyo points out, there are no franchise fees or royalties. The program includes the company's full line of inventory and, at the independent reseller's option, display fixtures, visual merchandising assistance and a start-up kit. The corporate-owned units often are used to test new merchandise, he says.

Independent resellers are encouraged to adopt the company's cart design, which Urcuyo describes as having a small-scale jungle. "Our innovative display has become a trademark to our name," he says, adding that it is an ongoing process to accommodate so much merchandise in such a small space - generally 4 feet by 6 feet.

In its site selection nationwide, the company primarily is targeting malls. "We really don't see any other place for us to have the same impact," Urcuyo says. Internationally, 10 units already exist in Latin America and the Caribbean.

As an expansion alternative for its product line, Urcuyo says, the company also plans to develop point-of-purchase displays for such locales as automotive stores, gas stations, and possibly gyms and spas.

Expanding the company's presence through its products goes a long way toward encouraging repeat customers and enhancing sales, both of which bode well for this burgeoning cart concept.

TAGS: Retail
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