The Rancho Santa Fe Association board approved a new agreement to share the cost of running the restaurant at the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club. At the board’s June 11 meeting, the board also approved forming a joint committee to oversee food and beverage operations at the club.
“The clubhouse restaurant is a community asset for all Covenant members,” said Ken Markstein, outgoing RSF Association president at his last board meeting. “Because the amenity is shared by all members of the Association, the board determined that it would be forward-thinking and fair to share the cost and supervision of the restaurant.
“It is in our best interests to work together to build a successful restaurant that will become the central gathering place for all Association members and an enhancement to our entire community.”
All Association members have restaurant privileges and usage is divided about evenly between residents who are golf club members and those who are not, however, the golf club has been solely responsible for the costs of operation.
According to Director Rick Sapp, the concept of cost-sharing came from a committee that formed in December 2018 with three members from the Association board and three members from the RSF Golf Club board. The committee has had two tracks of discussion—one regarding the potential renovation of the clubhouse and restaurant, and a separate conversation about the operational aspects of the restaurant.
Per the new agreement, “in the spirit of improving the community,” Sapp said that net profits and losses will be shared equally between the golf club and the Association. The Association’s exposure will be limited to a fixed amount of $300,000 in the 2019-20 budget.
While the day-to-day operations will continue to be managed by the golf club staff, strategic oversight of the restaurant will be provided by a joint committee. The joint committee will consist of two Association directors and another member appointed by the Association board, two golf club board members and another member appointed by the golf club board, and the two managers.
“The Association is a service-providing organization, we are here to provide an excellent golf club facility to our members and we see this as an opportunity to do that,” Sapp said, encouraging more members to take advantage of the facility and to get involved.
During public comment, RSF resident Lorraine Kent had some concerns about the Association’s path toward making a financial commitment to the golf club.
She referenced how, in 2014, the community voted on whether or not to commit $350,000 to enter into a professional planning phase for adding a pool and fitness center at the RSF Golf Club. (After the price tag for the Covenant Club came in around $15.8 million in 2016, the effort faded away.)
Kent said while she was in support of the effort, the community should have more transparency about what the agreement means and what the desired outcome is before it is approved.
“We need to know the mission, vision and strategies before, not after,” Kent said.
Kent and RSF resident Beth Nelson also gave input that a non-golf club member should be involved in the oversight committee to provide “fair representation” for the 72.5 percent of the community that are not members of the golf club.
Director Mike Gallagher agreed that in the interest of transparency and inclusion, “best efforts should be taken to ensure two members of the committee are non-golf club members.”
Under the agreement, capital improvement costs for the restaurant would be shared equally. A conceptual design team has been hired to study and propose a new dining concept, including branding, name, menu theme, interior design, improving the outdoor space and more. The design team is gathering input via focus groups and surveys from Association members about their desires for the restaurant—no concept or costs have been prepared for a renovation of the restaurant and clubhouse yet.
“Much work has to be done before any restaurant redesign. Our top priority in the short term is to focus on improving food and service at the restaurant so we can build satisfaction and loyalty among all members,” said Bill Weber, president of the golf club board of directors and newly-elected director of the Association board.
Weber said RSF Golf Club Manager Brad Shupe has been building a solid team, including new Food and Beverage Manager Chris Sarten and new Executive Chef Aaron Burns from Pebble Beach Golf Links, who is set to join the club after the US Open.
“We are committed to excellence both on the course and in the clubhouse,” Weber said. “We are excited about the direction the restaurant is headed and look forward to a collaborative and successful future.”