Boating Industry

February 2016

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February 2016 | Boating Industry | 21 [ Destination: MARINA ] A "COUNTRY CLUB" ATMOSPHERE While boating is certainly an activity for everyone, several ma- rinas expressed how much their customers appreciate "exclusiv- ity." Therefore, many amenities are private, members-only offerings. "To me, the goal of every marina should be to establish a niche [mar- ket] that fi lls a need or a want that makes the business different from its competitors," Dale Thomas, owner at Laurel Marina Dealership, Inc., said. "It's another way to keep customers that you have by adding value and attracts new customers to expand your business." Creating the club atmosphere draws the family in and prioritizes the marina in their schedules, even as other activities overwhelm their lives. "There's just so many things tugging at you that if we don't create and carve out a niche to make it more of a lifestyle, I feel like they tend to just move in and out of things too quick," said Mitch O'Hara Jr., vice president of Candlewood East Marina. "By creating that lifestyle … they're more likely to come back [throughout the season]." RESTAURANTS DRAW NEW BLOOD AND LOYAL CLIENTS Even as marinas create an exclusive atmosphere, ma- rinas are still aiming to attract new customers. One way mari- nas have been able to do this is to open restaurants that rival local establishments. Payne Marine opened a small-scale fi sh and chips restaurant at its marina to fi ll a void in the market. Customers were travel- ing 40 to 50 miles to eat at other restaurants serving similar food options but now Payne Marine is pulling market share to its marina, which has required extended patio seating. Through marketing efforts with a greater geographical scope than the marina normally draws, the marina has been able to bring in new customers. "It is profi table for sure," said Mark Payne, owner of Payne Marine, which is also a boat dealership. "It's not the major revenue stream by any means in the company, but it has given these new people a reason to stop in and see something that might be a lot more lucrative for us to sell them." Thomas spent around $100,000 on labor and materials to improve and expand Laurel Marina's kitchen, which has allowed the marina to offer a full-scale restaurant, The Harbor Grill, with catering options for members' marina events. The marina hired Justin Peters, a reputable chef in Bristol, Tenn., to head the restaurant. Thomas doubled the size of the original restaurant by reducing a por- tion of the facility's ship store. The new kitchen can serve up to 200 or 300 people at a time if needed. As of now, the restaurant offers outdoor seating for 125 people with a seasonal tent that covers about 40 seats, with plans to expand to indoor seating in 2016. "It's kind of like having a pro shop [or] a restaurant at a golf course. You can have a world-class golf course but you've also got to have … some type of food service," Thomas said. "We're not trying to create a hangout. … Our focus is that it's a family-oriented, high-quality venue and our food quality would compete with some of our fi ner restaurants in town." EVENTS KEEP FAMILIES AT THE MARINA Hosting events and other activities may seem like a distraction from the water, but they offer reasons for the family to stay at and come back to the marina. Candlewood East Marina holds club events for its members, such as free movie nights where kids lounge on the lawn while watching a movie on a screen with a projector. "It's just another reason to not go home at the end of the day. Spend all day Saturday boating and here comes Movie Night, and that keeps the rinas expressed how much their customers appreciate "exclusiv- 1 Even as marinas create an exclusive atmosphere, ma- 2 Hosting events and other activities may seem like a distraction 3 The Harbor Grill offers different nightly theme specials for existing customers. Through consulting with Peters, Thomas chose the latest high-tech kitchen technology for The Harbor Grill, Laurel Marina's restaurant.

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