Long gone are the days where garden centres were simply a place for consumers to pick up a petunia or two. As the popularity of Santa’s Grottos at Christmas demonstrate, a trip to a garden centre is now a full experience and, as a result, food and drink has become more important than ever.
Restaurant and café operations have become an increasingly vital revenue stream for the sector. However, with new opportunities, come new challenges, and with the recent eye-watering increases in overheads, the pressure is on to find ways to drive increased spend and improve the customer experience.
In order to achieve this, technology that’s geared up to handle the unique demands of an F&B operation is key. As hospitality tech experts with proven experience in the garden centre sector, we’ve put together our three top tips on how garden centres can leverage hospitality tech in their restaurants and cafes to reduce queues, increase speed of service and grow profits.
Quicker queues and less waiting!
While trading in garden cafés and restaurants remains steady through most of the day, there are nevertheless key trading times, as there are in any hospitality venue. It’s therefore important to have the right technology in place to help staff manage high footfall and reduce the amount of time customers are required to queue to be seated or served. For example, technology that enables customers to be added to a wait list and be alerted via a text when their table is available. This speeds up service, enables customers to shop while they wait for their table rather than simply leaving to find an alternative, and allows staff to serve more people – improving the overall customer experience.
While pre-booking a table may not have been something that has played a huge role in garden centre restaurants and cafés to-date, we know that three quarters (76%) of consumers say they have pre-booked to eat or drink out since the end of Britain’s first lockdown in summer 2020. Having the assurance that their table is booked and ready waiting for them has become a customer priority. With this in mind, implementing booking technology that allows customers to reserve a table, helps to improve the customer experience, as well as reducing queues and wait times during peak times – such as when the Santa’s Grotto is running or over the summer holidays.
Go mobile to speed up service
It’s important for F&B managers to take into consideration the main points of friction that can occur during the customer journey. We know, something which is echoed in our GO Technology report from this year, that convenience and speed of service is important to customers. More than a quarter (29%) now expect to receive updates about things like the status and timing of their orders, and another 46% would welcome them.
The key to speeding up operations whilst maintaining high-quality customer service is by leveraging technology to process customer orders quicker. Handheld ordering devices for staff is a solution, which is cost effective and can also speed-up orders and wait times. Providing staff with handheld devices reduces the reliance on fixed terminals and can also help to reduce mistakes when inputting orders. This also frees up staff to focus on delivering great customer service.
There is also back-of-house tech, such as stock and ordering technology that takes the guesswork 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. Meanwhile, inventory and ordering systems developed specifically for the hospitality sector, would give garden centre café and restaurant managers tighter control over their purchasing. Such systems eliminate the risk of over-ordering, minimise wastage and avoid a situation where cash is tied up in stock. Consolidating and joining these systems will also highlight where inefficiencies lie, improve reporting at all levels and increase profitability as a result.