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June 2018

Local Tastes Drive Diverse Business

By Steve Eubanks

When you travel to a new city and go out for dinner, is your first choice the same chain restaurant you frequent two doors down from your house? Is your beverage of choice the same mass-produced beer you can get on sale at your local grocer? Do you order the same generic items you can eat anywhere else in the world, including your hometown?

Those questions likely elicited a smile because almost no one behaves that way today.  Our parents and grandparents longed for uniformity on the road because, in their day, it was unavailable. McDonald’s was a raging success in the 1950s because people needed the comfort of a consistent meal while out of town. Now, consumers go out of their way to find local flavor. From microbreweries to farm-to-table bistros, today’s consumers want to eat, drink, see and experience things unique to wherever they are.  

That trend isn’t lost on sophisticated golf operators. They know that a world-class resort experience needs to include a local taste, not just another Fazio-, Jones-, Coore-Crenshaw-, Doak- or Hanse-designed golf course set against a different backdrop. And while a golf resort’s primary business is golf and lodging, some creative operators are going out of their way to incorporate local flair into their offerings. 

For example, the Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head Island, which houses the famous Harbour Town Golf Links and the candy-cane striped lighthouse that has become the ubiquitous symbol of the island, has partnered with the local River Dog Brewer to produce Lighthouse Pale Ale. Every can has the Harbour Town lighthouse on it and the beer is available at all the resort’s restaurants.

On an even more micro scale, Red Ledges, the luxury club in Heber City, Utah, not only offers locally brewed root beer (Red Ledges Root Beer, infused with sarsaparilla), but they also sell canning jars full of Red Ledges Honey and Goat Milk Soap. Those items are produced by the 2 Farm Boys Soap Co., which is owned by the club’s assistant golf pro, J.R. Cummings and his wife. The two farm boys are their sons, Wyatt and Kasha, who milk the goats and collect the honey from local bees that feed in the area’s lavender and alfalfa fields.

There are plenty of others. Mission Inn in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida, grows its own orange and purple cauliflower for the restaurants. And the chef at Reserve in Indian Wells, California, in the Coachella Valley creates all his own syrups and mixers using local fruits and vegetables. 

It doesn’t have to be big or expensive. Reynolds Lake Oconee in Georgia, for example, offers a local coffee called Zinger Longer. But the idea of incorporating local flavors, things guests can only find at your location, in your part of the world, creates an experience. And experiences, no matter how small, are what generate return business.    

Steve Eubanks is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and New York Times bestselling author.

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