November Town Hall
Ocean Reef Club Chairman Ray Larkin opened the first Town Hall Meeting of the new season Friday, November 18 with a nod to the historic anniversary year. “I am thrilled to say on behalf of our Board, how honored and privileged we are to be your Board of Directors during our 75th anniversary of Ocean Reef’s founding and the 30th anniversary of Member ownership,” said Larkin. “It’s a true honor. Alan Goldstein, Tom Davidson and Dick Farmer, beginning in 1992, had the foresight to look at Ocean Reef and say, we should turn this into a private club. Fast forward 30 years, Ocean Reef is the finest private club in the United States, if not the world. So thank you for your vision, thank you for your persistence.”
Before moving on to the business portion of the meeting, Larkin went through the agenda, reiterating the commitment to no construction this season, while noting that there is focus on the Club’s master plan and the projects being considered for the next 3-5 years, including Associate housing and The Spa expansion. He also shared that the Club will leave no stone unturned in the effort toward improving the Equity Member experience, “So you feel like this is your Club, you are happy and comfortable, and you are able to do what you want when you want to do it.”
Member Usage & Satisfaction
ORC Vice Chairman Charlie Johnston, who serves as Chair of the Membership Committee, demonstrated that the Club continues to show strong usage by Equity and Legacy Members, strong demand for Membership overall, and a downward trend in Social Member usage. With the strong desire for Social Membership displayed over the past several years, Johnston announced the Club’s decision to freeze the Social Member Waitlist, adding an even greater emphasis on Equity Member satisfaction.
In terms of Member usage and demand, Johnston reported that Equity Memberships have only increased about 147 since 2015. While Legacy Membership appears to be growing, Johnston reminds everyone that “Legacy Members are our children and grandchildren. They come for holidays, they come for long weekends with their parents and grandparents and they would typically be here anyway even if they didn’t have a Legacy Membership, so it’s not as if there’s a surge of new people coming.” The Social Membership category continues to remain at 2,350 since the cap was put in place in 2015.
Johnston also reported that historically, the busiest months of the year are between January and March, and the average of Members here during that time are Equity and Legacy Members, with Social Members actually trending down over the past years. The Club has also ceased large group business during this time, accepting only Member weddings and smaller corporate groups, which mainly eat in banquets and not the restaurants.
To further enhance Equity Member satisfaction, Johnston announced important changes to Social and Legacy Membership. On top of freezing the Waitlist, the Club decided to activate new Social Members from the Waitlist in May instead of January, avoiding an influx of new Members in January. Additionally, all guests of Social and Legacy Members must be accompanied by the sponsoring Member throughout the duration of the guest stay. The maximum number of day guests a Social or Legacy Member may sponsor at any one time has been reduced to six. The two-visit rule still applies, which means sponsored guests may visit twice in a period of five years.
State of the Club
Michael Heaney, Finance Committee Chairman, went on to highlight the successful financial year Ocean Reef has experienced, saying, “The Club is in terrific financial condition with the Ocean Reef Membership being the driving force behind these financial results.” Heaney reported the Club benefited most from high usage among restaurants, retail outlets, and most other Ocean Reef services and amenities. Heaney also reported that 2022 should produce record results, with 2021 being the previous record year, and the Club continues to have no debt.
“We recognize this is your money,” said Heaney. “It’s all of our money collectively as equity holders, and the Board recognizes the fiduciary responsibility to invest this money back into the Club in ways that create greater Member experiences, as well as enhancing the value of our equity. That’s exactly what we have done over the past few years with the renovation of the Clubhouse, the Ocean Room, and Buccaneer Island Lagoon, and it’s certainly the game plan going forward.”
Overall, Heaney reported that operating results and liquidity remain at historic highs.
Capital Projects & Dining Changes
Club President Alex Tonarelli shared Club Management’s three key objectives for this past summer – to complete open projects to avoid disruption in the season, to enhance the Equity Member experience, and to find and train the best Associates.
First, Tonarelli shared the status of the Club projects from the year. The first being the Buccaneer Island Lagoon – a project which began last year with the Club’s effort to improve the water quality in the Lagoon. This summer, the focus shifted to beautifying the Lagoon, enhancing the arrival experience, and improving the aesthetics of the road that leads to the Islander.
Next, was the Clubhouse, which opened during the holidays last year to add additional dining seats, but without some of the permanent furniture intended for the space. Now, after this summer, the proper furnishings are in place and the final touches complete, “making it really feel like a Member’s Clubhouse.”
There are plenty of other ways the Club looked to enhance popular Member spaces this summer, including adding a Putting Lab with “Putt View Technology” at the Academy of Golf, adding three additional Pickleball courts to the Tennis & Games Center, updating the Raw Bar bathrooms, and renovating the Member Dry Cleaning space with the addition of a full-time tailor.
Equity Member Experience
For the next portion of Tonarelli’s presentation, the objective he called the most important, he spoke of enhancing the Equity Member experience, starting by thanking those Members who filled out Member surveys. “We read every single survey and we act on each one,” he said. ”When they’re positive, we recognize the Associates you mention. When there are opportunities to improve, we review those and take action as best we can. We finished this year with a 92% overall Club score. By any measure, this is a very good score that we are proud of. That being said, there were opportunities to improve on from last year – one of those being the dining reservations process. This is where Club Management and the Board focused most of our time, really revamping the dining program and creating additional venues.”
Among the changes that came from this analysis, Equity Members can now make dining reservations 14 days out – the number one request from last year – with Legacy and Social Members three days out. Holiday dining and Vine to Table and Specialty Dinner reservations have also been opened for Equity Members only at this time. And the most noteworthy change of all is the addition of Equity Member Only Nights at Gianni, Islander, CH Prime and the Ocean Room – “one easy way for us to give you that opportunity to have the restaurants for yourself.”
Another emphasis of the dining policy changes, was to increase the number of available seats per night, giving all Members a greater opportunity to enjoy the dining offerings. “Three new concepts right off the bat is that food is now being served at CH Lounge, we have Mexican cuisine that has opened up at Palm Court Nights, and we’ve revamped the Ocean Room menu to have some of the best dishes from last season, but more importantly, to have all of the Islander favorite dishes as well as sushi and raw bar items,” said Tonarelli.
Additionally, most of the restaurants have added an extra night, with many of them now open seven days a week, totaling an additional 2,400 dining seats on a weekly basis. Nightly seating is up 400 seats from last year. Another change positively impacting the availability of seats is the updated cancellation policy. An analysis of last season showed 30% cancellation rate with 40% of those within 24 hours of the reservation. After shortening the reservation window and revising the cancellation fee, the Club already sees improvement with a nearly 80% reduction in cancellations year over year.
“I appreciate every Member’s support on this,” said Tonarelli. “We’ve worked hard to create this plan. We’re going to see where it goes, listen to your feedback, and then make adjustments as we see necessary.”
Following the dining discussion, Tonarelli shifted gears to Member Events and the milestone anniversary season that has just begun. The Club has already celebrated traditions like the tennis and pickleball Member-Associate Tournaments, the 50th annual Member-Guest Golf Tournament with a record 106 teams, and Equity Welcome Back with more than 700 Members in attendance, but there is so much more to look forward to, culminating with the April 13-15 anniversary celebration.
Tonarelli also touched on Associate training and the Club’s efforts to look for and hire the best full-time and seasonal staff. “One important way of doing this,” Tonarelli said, “is through our Associate Season Kick-Off sessions, with the goal of making sure each and every Associate understands all the unique elements of our Club, and ensuring they share in the enthusiasm for a wonderful season ahead. Most importantly, it’s a great opportunity for myself and our Leadership Team to help them understand the special relationship between you, our Members, and our Associates. That relationship is the reason so many of our 600+ loyal full-time Associates have been here for, in some case, over 50 years. I’m not sure how many places, clubs or businesses can say they enjoy that kind of loyalty and I thank you because in large part, that’s due to you.”
In closing, Larkin returned to the stand to introduce and thank the Board of Directors, reiterating how very proud and honored they are to be on the Board for the historic 75/30 anniversary.
To watch the full Town Hall presentation, visit oceanreef.com/TownHall.