OCEAN COUNTY – Publicly owned golf courses in the county often have a privately owned restaurant on site. But what makes some of them more successful than others? The answer might simply be the real estate mantra “Location, location, location.”
Atlantis County Golf Course in Little Egg Harbor, Cedar Creek in Berkeley, and Bey Lea in Toms River all have a restaurant on the premises that have had varying degrees of success.
Atlantis has hosted Cuisine on the Green for about 5 years, said Michael Mangum, director of the county’s parks and recreation department. The county took it over after some other restaurants went under.
“The restaurant business is a tough business,” he said. They had one long-term vendor who retired. Then, they went through three vendors in quick succession.
Currently, Cuisine on the Green is home to the adult program at the Ocean County Vocational-Technical School’s program to teach cooking and restaurant management. Having this here changed the entire atmosphere, he said, allowing quality food in a clean location. Special events like food demonstrations are held there. Produce is raised by the master gardeners.
“All the problems we had with vendors were gone,” he said.
Mangum acknowledged that the restaurant is out of the way so people are not likely to see it there. However, he is hoping that word of mouth will change that. If people have a pleasant experience, and word gets around, people will realize it is worth the trip and it won’t be seen as out-of-the-way anymore.
Jared Tate, director of recreation for Toms River, said the street visibility might help with a lot of business, since it gets customers who are there just for dinner, and who did not golf.
Shogun, the restaurant on site at Bey Lea, is seen from North Bay and Oak Avenues, and by most people who are trying to bypass Hooper Avenue or go to Castle Park. It has been open for more than a decade. Representatives from Shogun did not return calls for comment.
“They invested a lot in that restaurant,” Tate said. They also have light fare offered partway through the course.
Berkeley’s Cedar Creek Golf Course had a recent history of having a hard time landing a vendor. The township had to go out to bid several times to land a client that would be able to run the restaurant in an effective manner. Township officials wanted to make sure they could find someone who would be open when the course is open, and provide a family atmosphere.
Currently, the vendor is operating a restaurant on the site called The Creek House. The vendor had the good fortune of coming in after a great deal of rebuilding had been done to the facility. There was a new bar installed, and an entire room remade. There will also be a refreshment cart out on the course itself.
Unfortunately, 2016 had a bit of a late start for the restaurant, since it did not obtain a liquor license until toward the end of the season, said Fred Ebenau, the township’s chief financial officer. They were also a lot of golfers who got used to there not being a vendor on site, and continue to bring their own food and drinks.
The rough 2016 will create a groundwork for a positive 2017, though, he said. The vendor is on board with the township, and both will work toward mutual success. “The more people you bring to the golf course helps us, and the more people we bring to your restaurant helps you,” he said.
When Berkeley heard that the county was using OCVTS, they looked into it as well, Ebenau said. After analyzing it, they realized that this situation would not work for Cedar Creek. “There would have been more minuses than plusses.”
They were looking at it because they had been struggling to get a vendor into the golf course restaurant for some time. The course and restaurant are at the end of the road that leads to Veterans Park, off Veterans Boulevard. The restaurant does not have any frontage on a major road.
“A lot of people don’t even know there’s a golf course back there,” Ebenau said, let alone a restaurant. That’s why the township hired a public relations worker to help publicize it. Signage has been installed. There is also a push to make it busy all 12 months.