By Joe Pike
Thayer Kern is the general manager at one of North Florida’s most exclusive beach clubs and resorts: The Lodge & Club at Ponte Vedra Beach. Joining as Club Manager in 2014, he was promoted to General Manager in 2015.
There is more to Kern than meets the eye, however. Aside from management, he is a loving husband of 20 years, a father of two sons, an owner of two dogs and a former rodeo jock. That’s right, the general manager of The Lodge & Club used to ride bulls as part of his high school recreation. But as some passions come to end, new ones begin—for Kern, that new passion is The Lodge.
- How did you get your start in hospitality?
I got started the way most people do—through need. I was living in Denver and looking for a second job and I found one as a busser at a place called the Fresh Fish Company. Their claim to fame was that the owners had two private jets and would fly in fresh fish from both coasts. Then my family and I moved to Florida and I got a job at a place called Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa. After three-and-a-half years at Bern’s, I met some executive recruiters in the food and beverage manufacturing industry. I found myself specializing with engineers in the manufacturing plants. After the birth of our first son, my wife and I put our house on the market and moved to Vero Beach. Landing back in hospitality, I took a server position at the Ocean Grill, later becoming assistant general manager. I realized I wanted to work in the private club industry. After several years I had made enough contacts and gained enough experience to make some real moves.
- What was the climb to general manager like?
It was fun. I started from the bottom just like everyone else and just got lucky, I guess. Don’t get me wrong, I worked hard, but I would never have been here today without some of the people I met along the way. I tell my employees all the time, “Every day is bring your brain to work day.” Everyone in this industry knows that we are all in this together.
- How does The Lodge and Club compare to other clubs/hotels you’ve worked for?
Well, before The Lodge I had not worked for a hotel before, so that was one of my big projects coming in, to learn how to run a hotel in addition to a club. These are two very different animals, each with very specific qualities, needs and challenges. Resorts are on the map with reviews, ratings and very public personalities. Clubs are quiet, discreet, private and like to stay that way.
- What’s the difference between working with members and working with hotel guests?
The main difference is that members are here almost every day. They know what they want to do— they’re invested for the long run. Because of this we’re able to establish long term relationships with them and understand what it takes to make their time here valuable. On the resort side, the relationship building is more compressed and as such, we must constantly anticipate their needs. So what we aim to do is surround them with opportunities to relax, explore the two beach resorts, our surrounding community and provide a diverse set of amenities so that they have options.
- What is your favorite part about managing The Lodge & Club?
I love a good puzzle. Working here lets me use my passion of problem solving to best suit the needs and desires of our members and guests. I love coming to work because I enjoy the people. It’s a team environment here, which is by far my second favorite thing.
Photo courtesy Thayer Kern
Thayer Kern on the beach in Ponte Vedra.