We at Private Club Marketing (PCM), had the pleasure of speaking with hospitality pro, Meghan Holobetz, as she transitions into her new role as Banquet Manager for the elite Merion Golf Club. Ms. Holobetz comes to Merion from Pennyslvania’s Schuylkill Country Club where she worked in Membership and Marketing. She is a graduate of the Sandler Training Program in Colorado.
PCM to Meghan Holobetz: You have recently gone from being a Membership/Marketing Director at the Schuylkill Country Club to the Banquet Manager at Merion. What are the main differences with working in the two environments?
Meghan Holobetz: The main difference is that my role and daily responsibilities have changed…but I am still a club industry professional. Most people would think that the two roles would be drastically different, but in reality there are a lot of similarities. As a Membership/Marketing Director, my job was primarily to increase membership enrollment and enhance participation in events. My background as a membership director helps me understand and anticipate member needs, which is beneficial when executing events as a banquet manager. I am also able to utilize my marketing and sales experience to create plans and educate my staff on how to best promote our amenities or events that the club is offering to the members. These two roles have a different day-to-day process, but my main focus is the same: the membership. Being at Merion, I now have a greater appreciation understanding of the importance of tradition and history, and the role it plays at the Club and within the industry.
PCM: What does an average day as a banquet manager look like?
Meghan Holobetz: Excellent communication skills are critical as a manager. Every day [we host] multiple events [at the club] and it is important to be able to effectively communicate with the food and beverage staff, as well as interdepartmentally. As a golf club, most of our events are centered around golf. Having the service staff work with the kitchen, golf shop, and green department as a team is really important. I am fortunate for the opportunity to work with some of the industry’s brightest and most talented professionals, whom I greatly respect and learn from on a daily basis.
My two main focuses are meeting members and working with/leading my team. As a manager you need to have good leadership skills. [I describe] my leadership style as a club industry professional as “elegant management.” I do this through being gracious, and showing the staff a good work ethic.
PCM: What happened on your most interesting day as a banquet manager, so far?
Meghan Holobetz: My most interesting day at Merion so far was our Robert T. Jones, Jr. Memorial Tournament. This is an annual event commemorating a major milestone in the history of the club and the game. In 1930, Bobby Jones won four major championships to capture golf’s elusive “Grand Slam,” which he completed by winning the U.S. Armature at Merion. Each fall, the members come together for a special day, which includes a ceremonial march, a champagne toast and a black tie dinner. It is a beloved event. The pride that Merion’s members have in their club’s legacy is especially profound at this event. Being able to work in an environment that celebrates the history of a game I love is truly special to me.
PCM: What can you tell us about the banquet facilities at Merion—what’s special about them? We’d like to hear your take on the club’s reputation for fine details and how this directly affects the membership as a whole.
Meghan Holobetz: The facility began as a small farmhouse and has evolved over the years while maintaining the same style and elegance. The newest addition to the clubhouse is the Hugh Wilson Pavilion, which was built after the 2013 U.S. Open. The Pavilion was created to provide members with a beautiful banquet facility that perfectly matched the clubhouse’s iconic farmhouse design. The highest compliment members paid the Pavilion upon its completion was that it looked as though it was always a part of the clubhouse.
These details are found not only within the facilities, but in the events as well. To us, the member’s experience is the top priority, and our members know that no matter the day or event, they are able to come to Merion and expect perfection. For example, our Women’s Member-Guest tournament this fall had a Ryder Cup theme. The golf shop held a lottery to select American and European teams, [our] floral team created Ryder Cup trophy arrangements, and the chefs prepared lunch with American and European themed courses. The Ryder Cup theme was represented in every facet of the day. Our members appreciate the staff’s thorough commitment to details. [We] are [always] excited to treat guests to the Merion experience.
PCM: What are some of the most important events you will be hosting on Merion’s event calendar?
Meghan Holobetz: All of our events are member or member-sponsored events that receive our best efforts in planning and execution, so I think they are all of equal importance. As a golf club, we host many member tournaments and golf outings. It is important for us to create a food and beverage experience that is as world-class as our golf course, golf shop operations and cuisine. As I mentioned earlier, our Bobby Jones Tournament is a very special event on our calendar, but we also look forward to [all our events each year].
PCM: What special challenges come with serving the elite members of a private club?
Meghan Holobetz: The club industry is focused on serving others, and we always keep that in mind. For me, there is no difference in the way I interact with our members and their guests at my current club, than I did at my last club. The thing that I love about this industry is that it allows me the opportunity to be myself. Now in my new role, I have the ability to share that sense of individuality and passion for others with my employees. The joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment that I receive from being able to create an unparalleled experience for our members and their guests is just another reason I enjoy being a part of this special organization. I went to school and studied how to put plans together; this role is no different. I work every day to find out what works best for the members and for my team.
I think the “challenge” is making sure all the pieces of the puzzle fit to create a wonderful experience overall, keeping in mind how your role and your team affect the overall event. Part of why Merion is so highly regarded in the private club world is because the staff is made up of individuals who are the best in their professions. People often applaud our staff for having a “can-do” attitude and [always working to find solutions] [to the questions that come up]. Working with such talented people, all of whom keep service at the forefront of what they do, makes the challenges easy to overcome.