Garden Centres have for many years offered a wide range of products other than plants, gardens tools and garden accessories.
Around the country nurseries have turned their green fingers to catering, providing an ideal opportunity to increase their profit line and offer an alternative to the dining out market. Over time, trialling new ideas, gardens centre have transformed themselves into retail power houses.
Here are a few facts about the garden centre industry:
36 million plus visit garden centre cafes / garden centre restaurants every year with an average 8% increase year on year.
A third of garden centre visitors said that their choice of garden centre had been influenced by the presence of a café or restaurant.
One in eight garden centre visitors has visited specifically to use the café or restaurant facilities.
40% said that they always or often go on to buy other products, with 48% saying that they did so occasionally.
(Data provided by the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA)).
Like many others, I have bought locally made jams, Christmas pies and other tempting cakes at my local Garden Centre and have taken afternoon tea with friends enjoying freshly made scones and speciality teas. Quality produce always being the driver.
With an ever increasing captive audience as people opt for a greener lifestyle planting and growing vegetables - the UK garden centre has become the alternative shopping mall experience with a country living edge appealing to women as the real influence behind the local garden centre success using it as the local meeting place.
The statistics tell us the trend for spending leisure time at the garden centre will continue to grow. They offer a better than average customer care experience with helpful interested staff, offering handy tips, carrying your bags to the till and to your car (when required) and providing local produce rarely found at supermarkets.
As we are going through an era of greater retail diversity, why should garden centres not enjoy their place within the retail sector? With greater product ranges and by, creating events such as week-end food markets where growers and producers present locally grown produce, this industry should continue to enjoy steady growth.
If garden centres can continue to provide the kind of service consumers have become accustomed to, garden centre cafes and restaurants will continue to play an important role – bridging the gap between the offer provided by in store catering at supermarkets and that provided within leisure facilities such as pubs.
In the July issue of the magazine Delicious - they show cased “The best garden centre cafes” in the Features and guides food directory section - http://www.deliciousmagazine.co.uk/features--guides - listing some of UK’s most reputable nursery eateries offering seasonal menus and afternoon teas.
This demonstrates that there is huge potential for garden centre catering to gain an even bigger slice of the catering market by playing to its strengths in terms of offering a venue for meeting and socialising with high quality affordable snacks, lunches, afternoon teas, seasonal produce, fast service and free car parking.
By the garden centre market staying true to its core values – on site cafes can continue providing valuable income, and in turn will also help drive footfall and sales to other departments.
As I made my way to the car park with my treats from the nursery café, I found myself commenting on how excellent the food and service I had received was forgetting the very reason I went there in the first place – compost!