A Cohnversation with General Manager, Kristofer J. Fair, CMM, Bluestone Country Club
Jim Cohn: Kris, what have been some of the highlights of your career?
Kris Fair: Jim, we’ve known each other for at least three decades. In those early years, I’d have pointed out the large catering events that I was part of in Philadelphia or the success of taking a small struggling country club and making it prosper. Thankfully, I see highlights so much differently now. Today, I enjoy the relationships that made me a better business partner; I think of Robert Ryan Catering who mentored me in sales - we became such close friends, and we had fun doing business. Bob Ryan is the epitome of a mentor, he took every opportunity to show me a better way, a smarter way - and, for the client, a memorable way. I can look back at Mike Boris of Frog Commissary at the Franklin Institute who ended every meeting with “Now let’s be upbeat and positive” - never a truer statement about how hospitality staff should be while providing top level service to demanding clients. I appreciate Mike Bowman of Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board who doesn’t believe ideas should have boundaries. It is these individuals who are the highlights of my career. I hope to leave a legacy on those I impact in the same way these men have done for me.
Jim: I think golf has been on the rise this last decade and since you have been at a few country clubs, how is the industry doing and what new changes are happening?
Kris: The country club industry is fascinating to me. For so many years, private clubs struggled because they thought their competitor was the golf club down the street or the next town over. Today, a private club must consider everything from Movie Tavern to IFly indoor sky diving to be their competitor. Our culture has changed to embrace experiences over material purchases. In the same way, country clubs must offer memorable experiences. At Bluestone Country Club in Blue Bell this past Easter, we had an Adult Easter Egg Hunt. I can show you the video of 45 adults running out the back door to find airplane bottle sized Fireball (in place of eggs). Each bottle had a gift tag: one included $100 off of their dining bill, another had three guests comped for golf and lunch, another had a table for four at our upcoming Dinner En Blanc party in June.
Will people remember the carved ham? Probably not, but the Fireball bottles have been the talk of the club for a few weeks now. Our niche market is definitely the 27-39 year-old millennial who doesn’t want to call to make a reservation. Our members text their reservations for dinner to us. Our golf course is geo-fenced so that when a member walks off the 8th tee, their phone or watch, buzzes them with a message that states, “Nice putt on #8, time to order for the turn” - they then can place an order from our app and their food and beverage is waiting at the 10th hole.
Jim: Besides golf tournaments, what other types of events does Bluestone Country Club host?
Kris: We host multiple branded events, such as the “Romancing the Stone” dinner. Our invitation to that event was so interactive and was hand delivered to each guest. The invitee had to have the “Blue” stone to enter the event. And what an event it was! We have plans this year for more interactive branding events. I have heard plans from my team that include hot air balloons, virtual reality garden parties – some of our events that we are doing with our clients, such as the Elmwood Park Zoo’s golf outing we are taking the traditional boundaries away and redefining a most interactive golfing event that will be completely memorable. I believe we are becoming known as unique event producers for the Philadelphia event planners.
Jim: What do you and Bluestone’s owners have in mind for the future of the country club?
Kris: We are fortunate as a company to have two incredible gentlemen to work for: Bruce Goodman and Scott Dougherty. Bruce and Scott don’t expect perfection, but they also don’t settle for less than excellence. As you know, our hospitality brand started just over five years ago when Bruce and Scott purchased the Blue Bell Inn and completely renovated it, changed its image and culture, and set the standard for dining in Montgomery County. Three years ago, they ventured in the private club industry and purchased Meadowlands Country Club, the club was going bankrupt. Today the club is flourishing with the same quality of food and service as the Blue Bell Inn along with an impeccable golf course. We aren’t finished yet – this winter our hospitality brand will be expanding as we open another restaurant in Horsham, PA. Another location of really great food under the supervision of our Corporate Executive Chef, Pete Sherba.
Jim: What has been key to growing the visibility of both Bluestone Country Club and the Blue Bell Inn?
Kris: It was knowing who our target audience was going to be at both places. Scott and Bruce are visionaries; they didn’t rely on the former clientele of The Blue Bell Inn, nor did they stay within the demographics of membership that the former Meadowlands had established for their future when they transitioned to Bluestone Country Club. Today, the Blue Bell Inn remains a trendy place. Our oyster bar is amazing and the daily influx of customers at our Happy Hour is enviable. Bluestone Country Club is a true mix of individuals who represent the Blue Bell area. Our marketing is just as strategic in how we reach our audience. It’s a delicate, ever-changing balance.