According to the Garden Centre Association’s Barometer of Trade report, catering sales in garden centres were up a staggering 3,679% in March 2022 compared to the same month in 2021, and have been up throughout 2022 so far, which neatly demonstrates just how important this arm of the business has become. Now playing a key role in driving revenue and footfall, café and restaurant F&B managers in garden centres must deliver on evolving customer expectations in order to continue to drive growth in 2022.
Delivering exceptional customer service in garden centre cafés and restaurants can be easily achieved by implementing the right tech – and technology specifically designed to meet the challenges of a hospitality environment can be employed to give garden centre restaurants the edge.
Here are four ways this tech can help improve the customer journey in your garden centre restaurant or cafe:
- Booking systems can reduce queue times
Although Brits are known to love a queue, we don’t like to be kept waiting unnecessarily. In fact, according to research we conducted together with KAM Media, a main bugbear for consumers when spending time in a restaurant is being forced to queue for a table, with 55% of consumers citing this as a top frustration.
Implementing a simple and easy-to-use booking system is one solution to alleviating this pain point. Having systems in place that allow customers to either reserve a table, or be added to a waiting list whilst they shop and be alerted when their table is available, is a great way to manage customer expectations and alleviate a major pain point for customers.
Further research also showed that 64% of consumers have reserved a table or space to eat or drink out since hospitality venues reopened in April 2021. With more customers wanting to have the assurance that their table is booked and ready for them, garden centres that provide customers with this facility will get happier customers as a result.
- Mobile devices can speed up service
Not only do customers not like to be kept waiting, but we know from our research that customers are looking for slick, quick, convenient service. In fact, we know that more than a quarter of consumers (29%) now expect to receive updates about things like the status and timing of their orders, and another 46% would welcome them.
The challenge then, is to deliver a convenient service that doesn’t compromise on the overall quality of face-to-face service and going mobile is one solution to this dilemma. If you offer table service in your restaurants or cafes, or are considering offering it, an easy way to increase speed of service, is for staff to use handheld ordering devices, as this reduces the reliance on fixed terminals and eliminates the need for staff to rekey orders into the POS, both saving your team a significant amount of time as well as reducing any potential mistakes. This will free up staff to focus on delivering great customer service.
Digital order and payment solutions, which enable customers to order and pay directly from their mobile phone, are another easy-to-implement piece of tech that offers customers a quick and easy way to order food and drink or pay for the bill. Post-pandemic, customers have become accustomed to the presence of such services in their everyday lives. Our GO Tech report findings, in partnership with CGA, found that 79% of consumers were happy with the ease and speed of payment when paying digitally. The warm reception from consumers given to order and payment apps is reflective of how valued they have become, making them a valuable addition to any garden centre restaurant or café.
- Digital loyalty schemes can drive repeat footfall
Our latest report conducted in partnership with CGA found that 80% of customers seek some form of personalisation from restaurants. What’s more, a third of people expect tailored discounts and details as a matter of course. But what does this mean for garden centres?
We know that people want to be treated on a personal level when spending time in other hospitality venues, so there’s every reason to believe they will have the same expectations in a garden centre café or restaurant. Meeting these expectations and providing customers with the personal touches they expect will make them feel valued and hopefully keep them coming back again and again. Having your EPoS system linked to a digital loyalty scheme is a fantastic way to achieve this. The customer data businesses acquire from their EPoS can inform F&B managers on vital sales information about their customers which can be used to create bespoke offers, deals and promotions as well as targeted marketing campaigns.
- Digital stock management can remove customer disappointment
Specialist hospitality technology can help keep track of stock levels down to every single ingredient – in real time. This is important in terms of reducing wastage and keeping costs down, but it also removes a customer frustration before it has even occurred.
We know that another major bugbear for customers in hospitality is ordering things on a menu that are sold out already and therefore unavailable to them. With an inventory and ordering system such as Zonal’s, menus can be updated as items are ordered by customers and staff can be informed of shortages ahead of customers ordering them, side-stepping a potential customer upset.