Garden centre customers keen to sample horticultural hospitality

As lockdown measures continue to ease across the UK, there is no sign of the incredible growth in sales by garden centres slowing. In fact, overall sales for 12th April – 12th May 2021 are 22% up vs the same period in 2019; and garden/gardening sales within this are +34%. And as all nations except Northern Ireland began welcoming patrons back inside cafes and restaurants from Monday, there’s great news about consumer confidence, too.  

The HTA has been tracking consumer confidence in visiting both garden centres and garden centre cafes, set in the context of COVID-secure measures being in place. The results from the most recent wave show that 80% of British adults now feel confident visiting garden centres and 67% feel confident in visiting a garden centre café or restaurant. This is the highest these numbers have been since tracking began.

Catering is of great importance to many garden centre’s revenue streams, helping to counteract the seasonal nature of business, especially in colder months. There’s a wide range of hospitality on offer across UK garden centres, from small, traditional tearooms, to full-on sit-down restaurants. Garden centre catering follows all the necessary COVID-secure measures but urge customers to be respectful of fellow customers and staff and continue to follow the guidelines set out. 

Matthew Bent is managing director at Bents Garden & Home in Warrington, which boasts a Tapas Bar, a Coffee Hut, and various other dining options, including a Pet Café with pet-safe treats such as ‘pupacinos’ and ‘pupcakes’. 

He said: “The past year has been a very challenging time for everyone, and although as a garden centre we have been fortunate to remain open for much of the time, like other hospitality venues our indoor dining destinations remained closed in line with government guidelines. We were delighted when the first steps in the roadmap were announced and we were able to offer outside dining options, and now we are looking forward to extending this to inside.  

“We’ve had to make many changes, including a slightly reduced menu and reduced covers to ensure everyone’s safety. Not all our dining destinations have re-opened yet, but our colleagues have embraced the challenge and created welcoming destinations where diners can enjoy their meal in our bright, relaxing and attractive surroundings.” 

In line with government guidelines, garden centres are doing everything they can to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Many have implemented new safety measures such as hand sanitizing stations and are requiring visitors to remain socially distanced. Glendoick Garden Centre and Café in Dundee is adjusting to the new normal with the help of a mobile ordering app to help patrons avoid queueing. Owner Jane Cox said: “Our cafe brings in a third of our income and the lockdowns have had a huge impact on our turnover. It’s a relief to be open again and a joy to see our staff and customers smiling, glad to be back. Embedding the app has had its challenges in the first two weeks, but staff and customers are now enjoying its benefits. We hope to add more tables as lockdown eases and look forward to serving our customers in a really safe and friendly setting.” 

This month’s Market Update also shows promising news in terms of Average Transaction Values in catering, with a 19% increase on April 2019 and a catering ATV of £10.21. The HTA’s Market Update is produced for its members each month and is available for them to download from the website.

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