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Transforming Garden Centre Dining: How embracing technology can improve operational excellence.

By Stewart Maranello|Mar 15, 2024|4:14 pm GMT

Garden centres are evolving, with dining experiences fast becoming a pivotal aspect of their business model. Joe Wilkinson, Head of Content at Garden Centre Retail, highlighted this transformation in a recent webinar I joined him on.

The latest HTA report shared that there has been a significant surge in revenue from garden centre restaurants—up 23% from 2022 and a remarkable 50% compared to 2021. Furthermore, the fact that 55% of garden centre visitors also frequent the café or restaurant, averaging 4.9 visits per year, translates to a staggering 149 million dining visits in 2023 alone.

Garden centres are increasingly incorporating dining as a significant part of their business, transitioning into sizable restaurant and café chains. This shift towards on-site dining transforms these centres into destination retail spots, offering broad appeal and ensuring profitability even during economic challenges by mitigating seasonal demand fluctuations.

As the dining aspect of garden centres expands, operators face the complexities of managing large dining operations distinct from retail, including specialized needs in purchasing, inventory management, and compliance.

By learning and adopting technology solutions from the hospitality sector, garden centre managers can streamline administrative tasks, enhance operational efficiency, and boost dining profitability.


How to supercharge your garden centre dining operation.

Operational differences between retail and dining

Garden centres are in a unique position to offer both retail and dining operations. But it’s important to remember that these two sides of the business have fundamental differences.

When it comes to running a restaurant, purchases have a different cadence to retail. They need to be made more frequently, and from a broader range of suppliers than procurement teams experienced in nurseries, concessions or even food hall items are used to. Fresh food has a short shelf life. Operators must accurately order food based on demand, to prevent waste; taking into consideration factors such as sales history, local and national events, and weather. Generic retail inventory solutions often lack the functionality to meet all these needs, and that’s before you’ve factored in ingredient availability and managing invoicing and purchasing from multiple suppliers.

Transitioning from traditional retail to dining operations introduces several unique challenges:

  • Supply chain complexity: The reliance on regional and specialist suppliers introduces variability in costs and challenges in stock availability and sourcing.
  • Ordering and inventory management: The shift towards small, frequent orders heightens the administrative load, especially for finance teams managing high volumes of invoices.
  • Recipe management: Multi-ingredient recipes demand meticulous management, as supplier variations can affect cost and quality across different locations.
  • Wastage: Fresh food management necessitates stringent control over wastage.
  • Legislative compliance: Adhering to laws like Natasha’s Law and calorie labelling requirements adds another layer of operational complexity.

The role of technology: Efficiency and control

Technology offers two primary benefits in streamlining garden centre dining operations: enhancing efficiencies and tightening control.

Efficiencies across the board

  • Menu conception: Digitizing recipe drafting and cost modelling simplifies menu management, while incorporating visuals can significantly enhance menu performance.
  • Wastage management: Analyzing sales predictions versus actuals aids in optimizing inventory and reducing wastage.
  • Centralised control: Technology enables the central management of menus and supplier relationships, ensuring consistency across all locations.

Tightening control

  • Streamlined purchasing: Digital order catalogues ensure purchases are based on approved recipes and suppliers, crucial for managing allergens.
  • Invoice management: Automated invoice reconciliation streamlines financial operations.
  • Simplified stock processes: Digital tools facilitate real-time, on-the-go stock management, reducing errors and time spent on manual tasks.

Embracing technology in garden centre dining operations not only meets the evolving expectations of customers but also addresses the complex challenges of supply chain management, wastage, and compliance. Fourth’s solution provides a pathway to enhanced efficiency, tighter control, and a significant return on investment, transforming the way garden centres operate their dining services for the better.

Fourth’s Comprehensive Inventory Management Solution

  • Automated efficiency: From suggested ordering based on analytics to real-time stock and sales reports, Fourth’s technology simplifies every step of the dining operation.
  • Strategic control: Detailed analytics provide insights into sales, wastage, and invoicing, allowing for precise control over operational costs and efficiencies.
  • Specialised systems: Tailored to meet the unique needs of dining operations, from supplier management to allergen and recipe management, ensuring compliance and enhancing customer satisfaction.

To discover how Fourth can supercharge your garden centre dining operation, get in touch today.