Like many service organizations, Rotary International is grappling with how to attract and retain members.  They are encouraging clubs to think outside the box and not necessarily do things the way they’ve always been done.  One such idea that has been floated is getting rid of the meal at the weekly club meeting.  Personally, I don’t like the idea. But I’m not sure I don’t like it because I think it’s a bad idea or whether I’m just used to way it’s always been done.  So even though this isn’t something the board is currently considering, I’ll dish it out there as food for thought.
There are two advantages to ditching the meal at Rotary meetings.  The first is that (apparently) it’s not popular with millennials.  This belief holds that millennials would rather have a quicker simpler meeting and that sitting down for a meal is an old and stodgy business relic. Sort of like the difference between a cocktail reception and a sit-down dinner. 
The other reason is cost.  One of the barriers of entry to joining our club is the almost $1,000/yr dues.  Most of our $80/month dues goes to paying for the breakfast at Cherry Valley Country Club.  And while some may question “Why don’t we find some place cheaper than Cherry Valley?”, the answer is that there aren’t a lot of options in town that can handle a breakfast meal and the cost would not be substantially (if at all) lower. 
Some clubs don’t put the cost of the meals into the dues but use a “pay as you go” system (i.e. someone stands there and collects money when you enter the meeting).  Although this method would allow dues to appear low, I think it discourages meeting attendance and adds to the club administrative headaches.
Could you envision future meetings at a place like a large conference room at the new municipal building/library complex where you bring your own food (maybe coffee will be provided)?  Meetings would be under an hour and dues would be closer to $30/month.  I’m not sure I can.  But let me know your thoughts.
Rotarically Yours,
Zoltan Nagy
Rotary Club of Montgomery/Rocky Hill (NJ)