How to reduce queues, increase speed of service and grow profits in your garden centre restaurant

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.

With restaurant and café operations become an increasingly vital revenue stream for the sector, new challenges emerge, and F&B managers are under pressure to find ways to drive 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 and, given our experience in the garden centre sector, we’ve put together our three top tips on how garden centres can leverage hospitality tech to reduce queues, increase speed of service and grow profits for their on-site restaurants.

  1. Quicker queues and less waiting!

While trading in 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. Customers wanting to have the assurance that their table is booked and ready waiting for them, is now a priority. With this in mind, implementing booking technology that allows customers to reserve a table, helps to reduce 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.

Offering your customers multiple ways to order food and pay the bill can also help to reduce wait times and assist staff with taking orders, particularly during the busiest trading periods. Contactless order and pay technology has been a lifeline for the hospitality industry over the past two years and has proven to be essential in enabling hospitality businesses to trade. F&B managers that adopt Order and Pay in their cafés and restaurants will not only be able to offer customers convenience and a speedy service without having to even leave their seat, but they can also expect to see a 5-10% uplift in average spend per transaction due to upselling and more frequent ordering. What’s more, if this is integrated with an EPoS, staff will no longer be required to take orders from one system and input them into the fixed POS terminal, enabling staff to process orders as quickly as possible.

  • Grow profits

Back-of-house tech, such as stock and ordering technology takes the guesswork out of stock control by providing real-time availability. If implemented into garden centre cafés and restaurants, managers can easily maximise 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.

About Zonal

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.

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