What’s the next phase for garden centre catering?

It’s no longer enough for garden centres to merely offer catering for functions as an option – the need for permanent catering services are at an all time high and today stores must wow their clientele to stick it out in the catering game.

Improving the calibre of the meals, instead of blindly following trends is what’s important to clients, Hillier managing director Chris Francis, who’s leading a roll out of restaurant updates at Hillier’s 12 garden centres, which began at Newbury in 2016 said of the increasing demand of chef prepared meals.

The shift from grab and go meals off the specials table case doesn’t suggest the offer of microwavable meals is appropriate, however it might suggest re-understanding local produce and how restaurants and cafes can adapt the produce in a healthy, trendy and tasty way.

Over 3 million people in the UK have visited a garden center cafe while grabbing their landscaping needs from the store within the last few months, and it’s showing no signs of slowing. The marketplace, worth £200 million when valued in 2011 by HTA, is expected to improve by around 10% every year.

Belle and Joe’s Kitchen cafe at Timmermans Garden Centre makes just under half of the company’s annual return, based on an overview of its records in March. With over 1,400 garden centres currently providing catering services, specialists within the area state garden centres have to do more to go forward and stick out in the market.

Green Pastures garden center has stormed towards the top of marketplace with this pattern. The Garden Kitchen Diner was built-in 2015 when the company noticed a chance to branch into catering and take home meals.

The Norfolk-based garden center was named winner of the Catering Excellence Award at Horticulture Week’s Garden Retail Awards in February. The restaurant redefines the use of local resources by using produce grown within the farm-house on the property.

Garden centres are adding extra catering places to handle customer flow. An expense- effective method of doing this is through the use of mobile catering services or pop up stores.

Timmermans Garden Centre found an alternate way to handle customer demand with no inclusion of the second area. The Timmermans sold a classic path-master coach, to extend Belle and Joe’s Kitchen with the inclusion of a landscaping design that allows for an outdoor eating area as well.

The expansion, that has an approximate budget of £75,000-100,000 increases seat covers by 50%. The path-master coach has partly funded the project. Timmerman believes that the expansion may be the correct choice for that garden center to handle customer demand since the restaurant is really popular; adding another food outlet to the centre might be a waste of money.

Merchants don’t have to put money into making a pop up catering company but may still produce revenue and manage demand. Garden centres may outsource and obtain rental revenue from the pop up caterer which could quickly put up within the car park.

To capitalise best from the restaurants spaces, business owners should think about increasing the hours of the cafe beyond the opening times of the garden centre itself if it’s possible. There’s a missed chance to open catering services during the night, you wouldn’t find a high street cafe open only a couple hours each day, why would a garden center cafe close early? Obviously, everything depends upon the interior logistics of the centre but when the space allows for it than it’s an excellent opportunity.

The Gardeners Kitchen has tried staying open later with regular themed evening meals. These fine dining nights attract diners and can include live entertainment.

Stewart believes there’s large possibility of garden centre restaurants to remain open later, but only when restaurants opt to do this throughout the whole week. Since the facilities already exist, it makes much more sense to utilise what’s there rather than opening a new pop up store or truck.

The lunch time rush is something all catering services can understand. These are the crucial intervals where the garden center is most active. Providing longer services might help control visiting times and offers on the garden centre may help bring in people.

The rise of garden centre dining popularity is something that all centres’ can capitalise on, and so they should. Garden centres provide a unique area for dining that restaurants and cafes just can’t offer. Have you ever seen a cafe with a travel crate full of plants?

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