With the impact of the cost-of-living crisis, soaring inflation and eye-watering energy bills hitting the retail sector hard, garden centres that are looking to plug the finance gap will need to dig deep in order to unearth new revenue streams and cost savings. With the significant increase in importance of F&B as a revenue driver, it’s important, now more than ever, for F&B managers to control costs.
Technology that has been designed specifically for food and beverage operations will provide a simple and effective way to achieve this.
Waste not, want not
One of the easiest ways to save money is by reducing the amount of stock that goes to waste, of course – and yet it’s so much easier said than done. A digital stock management tool can help, however. Specialist hospitality technology can track stock levels down to every single ingredient and in real time. This becomes particularly important when it comes to keeping costs down but also removes a customer frustration before it has even occurred – our research shows that customers choosing an item from the menu only to be told it is no longer available, is one of the biggest causes of customer frustration.
For venues that use an online purchasing management solution for example, the guesswork is taken out of stock control by providing real-time availability. If implemented into garden centre cafés and restaurants, managers will be able to more easily ensure they are maximising the profitability of each product they stock, giving garden centre café and restaurant managers tighter control over their purchasing. This minimises waste and avoids a situation where cash is tied up in stock.
What’s more, the data collected from a digital inventory assists operators in making smarter decisions for their business, with many operators using this insight to improve profit margins. Such digital solutions also alleviate the use of printed count sheets and manual count entries, saving time and reducing the risk of human error. Consolidating and joining these systems will also highlight where inefficiencies lie, improve reporting at all levels and increase profitability as a result.
Make your profits bloom
As well as helping businesses save money, tech can also help garden centre F&B operations drive revenue. For example, apps have been proven to help hospitality businesses drive sales and research has shown that customers tend to spend more when eating and drinking out when using them. In fact, total monthly spend on apps averages £99.35, against an all-consumer average of £76.47. If customers are pleased with the speed of service on an app, they are more likely to use it again and again. What’s more, if this technology is integrated with an EPoS, waiting staff, where table service is offered, will no longer be required to take orders from one system and input them into the fixed POS terminal, enabling staff to process orders more orders more quickly as well as efficiently.
Linking an EPoS system to a digital loyalty scheme is another easy way to drive revenue in the F&B arm of a garden centre business. While printed stamp cards or physical loyalty cards have worked for some time, tech can help garden centre F&B managers maximise the opportunities offered through digital loyalty schemes – apart from anything else digital loyalty schemes don’t get lost or relegated to a forgotten pocket.
Our research has shown that 49% of consumers in Britain think loyalty schemes are important to them when choosing which hospitality venue to visit —and that rises to nearly two thirds (63%) of 18- to 24-year-olds. Digital loyalty schemes allow customers to store their digital card, offers and more on their phone, meaning they are more likely to come in and make the most of the promotions and deals offered to them. What’s more, if a business can offer bespoke deals and promotions based on a customer’s preferences and previous spend habits, they may be more inclined to use the scheme repeatedly.
Sales data that goes through the EPoS can then be used to create bespoke offers and promotions on products relevant to an individual customer on. The system also enables operators to plan ahead and set up future promotions with scheduled go-live dates to make the most of key trading times and occasions. Garden centre F&B operations can use this as a golden opportunity to gain a competitive edge by learning more about their customers so they can engage, surprise and delight them time and time again.
There are also ways that technology can help garden centre F&B managers upsell. Online booking systems, for example, help to reduce customer frustration when forced to queue for a table, but they also provide garden centre restaurants and cafés with a fantastic opportunity to upsell and offer customers extra products when they are about to confirm their booking. F&B managers can add in the option for customers to pre-book their orders, offer deals on certain products and lots more, encouraging customers to increase basket spend.
No one will argue that times are tough – and about to get tougher – but garden centre F&B operations that harness the power of specialist hospitality tech will be those who don’t just survive but thrive.
 Zonal and CGA’s GO Technology survey, January 2021
Zonal’s experience in garden centres, combined with our roots in hospitality, enable us to work in partnership with retail operators to grow F&B profits, streamline restaurant operations and provide a first-class customer service.
If you would like to find out more, check out Zonal’s dedicated Garden Centre page, where you’ll find a variety of resources including top tips, insight and advice from industry experts, the benefits technology can have for your business and how operators just like you are using technology in their F&B operations.