The problem with Mowbray Golf Club

Mowbray Golf Club is a centrally located golf club in Pinelands. They offer their venue for functions, and two clubs I belong to, signed up to hold their regular events at MGC. It’s a nice venue space – a large upstairs room with views over the golf course from big wide windows, and the room has a private bar and fireplace. All fine so far.

The problem, of course, is service. I don’t think that MGC has thought through the service levels required to run a successful functions venue. I’ll talk about the experiences of both clubs that I belong to, in holding functions at MGC.

The first club meets once a month for a few drinks and a speaker. The pay their fee for the venue from 6pm to around 9:30pm. For the very first meeting, guests bought first rounds of drinks, and then settled down to listen to their speaker. When the speaker finished just before 9pm, guests looked around for the barman and found there to be none!

An enterprising person had a few bottles of wine which got opened (and drunk) and a pleasant evening was still had, with guests leaving around 11pm.

MGC handled the follow up well – they were OK with the guests drinking their own wine, and even the late hour of departure. However, MGC lost out on a good bit of bar income, and the evening could have been a damp squib for guests if they’d had to depart at 9pm unrefreshed.

Further meetings followed a similar pattern, except for one awful evening where the guests arrived to find themselves locked out of the upstairs venue. Apparently it had been set up for another function the next day, and someone in the MGC management had assumed that the 50-something guests could be squashed into the little committee room.

The staff on the  evening were great, and made a plan in the restaurant for the meeting. It was still a bit disappointing that a paying client was shoved aside in this manner. There has never been any apology from MGC for any “rough” evenings, or for failing to provide a barman beyond about 7pm.

The second club is a bit more demanding. Their meetings are also monthly, and include dinner. It’s a Toastmasters club, where members practice public speaking. This club sent their whole committee over to look at the MGC venue, and met as a group with MGC’s manager. All details were discussed, from meal options to timings and the specifics of a Toastmasters meeting.

Meeting one went off pretty well, except there was loadshedding. MGC doesn’t provide backup power, but the Toastmasters club was understanding about the problem and still had a good evening. Very nice gourmet burgers were produced by MGC, and the Toastmasters club was optimistic that they had found their new meeting home. They even started discussing how they could provide their own backup power to run audiovisual equipment if they needed to.

The next month, they held a similar meeting, but asked if MGC had a flipchart and speakers. A fairly hefty charge appeared on the bill for these items after the meeting, and the Toastmasters club was left a bit out of pocket. Another meeting ensued, and MGC was asked to be quote for items ahead of the meeting if any carried additional charges.

Generally, food was great, until we got to the July meeting. The gourmet burgers that had been such a hit were a complete failure. They were cold, and the chips were undercooked and even raw (and also cold). After the meeting, we mentioned to MGC that the food had been a disappointment. The Toastmasters club was told that the kitchen had aimed at 7:15pm for the food and it was the Toastmasters club’s fault that they weren’t ready when the food was. I know that the dinner break of 7:45pm had been communicated verbally to the serving staff on the evening, but a breakdown between staff and kitchen was not acknowledged and again, we would get very old waiting for any apology.

August was tough. It wasn’t just a club meeting, but an Area contest involving 4 clubs. Best guess catering numbers were sent to MGC 48 hours before the meeting as agreed, but a last minute flurry of extra guests added 7 more to the catering. MGC and the Toastmasters club had a standing arrangement around handling extras, by letting them select dinner from the a la carte menu. The increase of 7 was communicated 24 hours in advance anyway, seeing as we knew the figures, and followed with a request for 5 spare chairs in case we had any walk-ins.

I now include the email I received from MGC’s manager, after the follow up request for spare chairs:

Dear Lorraine

When we meet up, we need to discuss this constant change of numbers, straight after this email was sent to me, the numbers changed again  with a further 5 people. This is not working for us as a venue!

With immediate effect after tonight’s function, we withdraw the offer to allow you make changes to numbers within the 48 hour window, prior to your function. We unfortunately cannot operate like this!

The number you confirm 48 hours prior is the final number we can and will cater for going forward. No changes will be accepted and you will be billed accordingly…!

Kind Regards
Jason van Veyeren
General Manager

I followed up with a call and an email to explain the situation:

Jason, I haven’t sent through another 5?

I’ve just seen the quote from Saarah for 36, which I don’t understand? I asked for 36 chairs in case there are any latecomers (we hope not), but the total is 31 for dinner. One guest doesn’t want to eat, so we have 32 people. The gap between 31 and 36 might be the 5 you are referring to, but there aren’t another 5.
I have been very careful to not amend the numbers constantly. I sent my provisional tally 48 hours in advance, then one adjustment this morning. That’s it. Promise!

 

The evening went off well enough. The other clubs from Area enjoyed the venue, and I had no further communication from MGC. Our committee discussed the friction in our relationship with MGC, but resolved to abide by MGC’s manager’s injunction regarding final numbers 48 hours in advance. As the September meeting was back to a normal club meeting, we were comfortable that it would be much simpler to organize.

On the 3rd September we communicated our upcoming meeting needs to MGC. These were acknowledged by email with an attached booking form. We have a standing booking, filled in when we first arranged the venue hire, and the committee member who was sent the booking form didn’t react to it.

48 hours before our meeting, we sent through our final numbers, and this was acknowledged as received. The day BEFORE our meeting, one of our committee was called by MGC’s manager and told that MGC do not want our business and they will not be hosting us the following day as we didn’t fill in the booking form sent on the 3rd of September.

I’m gobsmacked by many things in this sorry tale of woe.

  1. The Toastmasters club had a standing venue booking and was entitled to expect that to be honoured;
  2. If MGC’s manager felt that the Toastmaster’s club was poor business for MGC, that should have been communicated after the August meeting;
  3. At no point has MGC approached myself, as our club President, to discuss any issues they might have;
  4. How do you drop a paying client 24 hours before a function and still expect to have any kind of reputation for being a good function venue?

I now have experience of MGC as a function venue through two clubs. I have a 100% failure rating in terms of client satisfaction. I hope that this review helps other organizations in deciding whether to give MGC their business or not.

I can’t remember when I last had such poor service from any organization, as I have experienced at Mowbray Golf Club.

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